GEORGE TOWN, July 30 — The moment you walk into Macam-Macam Asean at the Penang state museum premises, you will be greeted by the Monkey Tattoo Studio and its tattoo-covered artists.
The Monkey Tattoo Studio is a travelling tattoo studio from Sarawak and they are here only for two days in conjunction with this year’s George Town Festival.
They specialise mostly in tribal and rainforest inspired tattoos so if you’ve always wanted a tattoo, go check out their intricate, bold designs.
But Macam-Macam Asean is not just an exhibition of the arts and craft of the region but also a bustling bazaar with handicrafts and specially-designed items from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Laos and East Malaysia for sale.
Inside the Asean collective room is a display of the beautiful works by designers from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
One of the exhibitors, Fashion 4 Freedom, showcased artisanal products made by artisans and tailors from central Vietnam. Some of these products are one of a kind.
Then there is the Kuching collective with six different design and handicraft groups showcasing handicraft ranging from beadwork to handwoven bags from Sarawak.
This was probably the most attractive booth as colourful handwoven baskets and bags of all shapes and sizes fronted the tent and within the first few hours, many of the baskets had been snatched up.
Handmade by Penan women, one of the oldest indigenous tribes still living in Borneo, 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of these baskets goes back to the Penans.
Over at the back portion of the compound is the Craft and Creative Market and the Laksa of the Region (LOTR) stalls.
In the market, postcards, accessories, souvenirs and even furniture are on sale at special prices.
A wayang kulit stall — there was even a wayang kulit-making workshop — rounds up the stalls here with its display of shadow puppets including modern-themed ones such as Superman and Darth Vader.
Laksa lovers will be glad to know that this is the only place where they can try out 25 different types of laksa from all over South-east Asia.
Visitors get to vote for their favourite laksa on a large board near the front of the stage and as of late Saturday night, the Laotian laksa by a local restaurant No Eyed Deer is in the lead.
The types of laksa available ranged from the decidedly fishy Kelantan laksa to the rich smooth Jawi Peranakan laksa to even a vegan version.
There were three main performances at Macam-Macam Asean; the Gus Teja World Music at 7pm, Peperangan Bintang: Star Wars-inspired wayang kulit at 8pm and Potehi: A Penang Story at 9pm. These performances will play again tonight.
Gus Teja World Music play traditional music with instruments such as slonding, tingklik, drums and flute combined with modern instruments such as guitars and bass.
Meanwhile, Peperangan Bintang, presented by Fusion Wayang, will tell a story about the rise of the empire when Sangkala Vedeh takes over. Be prepared to watch Tuan Puteri Leia and her two droids, Si P-long and Ah Tuh, defeat the evil force.
Finally, Ombak-Ombak Art Studio presents a story about Penang through several main characters, Chew, Nya, Li and Kahssim using the traditional potehi hand puppets.
Set in the 19th century, the whole story is told in Penang's lilting Hokkien along with some Malay as the characters lived through the arrivals of traders and workers from India and China, the arrival of the British, the early trading town of George Town, Penang Riots of 1867 and ended with the festivities at New World Park.
Macam-Macam Asean is open to public from 11am to 10pm today. Entrance is free.
Find out more about other GTF 2017 events at georgetownfestival.com.