By Arnold Loh
Penang Hokkien can be hard to grasp. It differs somewhat from the Hokkien spoken in southern Malaysian states such as Johor, or even the Taiwanese Hokkien.
So two artists decided to produce a mural in the island state’s heritage enclave on Friday, dedicated to helping tourists learn the basic expressions of the dialect. It’s about 2.5 metres tall and adorns a purple wall of a pre-war shophouse at the corner of Lebuh Armenian and Lorong Soo Hong.
It depicts a young lad calling out that he will teach Hokkien. At the base of the mural are 10 concrete drain covers, each one bearing a Romanised Hokkien expression, such as “gui lui” (“how much?”), “chiak pa bui” (“Have you eaten?”) and “chui ta” (“thirsty”), with translations.
Jim Oo Chun Hee, 26, who has already drawn several murals in Penang, including a few on Penang’s longest wall of murals at Gat Lebuh Magazine, painted the Hokkien mural with his partner John Cheng, 21.
“It only took us about two hours,” he says of the graffiti-style work done with spray and acrylic paint. The shophouse belongs to a friend who had asked him to paint the wall to draw a crowd.