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Artist or Activist? Penang's Ernest Zacharevic is both

Artist or Activist? Penang's Ernest Zacharevic is both

Bridging Artistry and Activism

In the world of Ernest Zacharevic, artistry and activism converge to weave a narrative that transcends traditional boundaries. Renowned for his captivating murals gracing the buildings of George Town Penang, Zacharevic is not merely an artist but a catalyst for change. As we embark on a journey through the vibrant lanes of Penang, we'll also uncover the brushstrokes that paint a compelling story of environmental advocacy through projects like Splash & Burn and Stop the Haze. Join us in exploring the dual world of this remarkable individual.

Ernest Zacharevic artist - The Geo Kid Travel Journal

Exploring Penang's Street Art Tapestry: A Journey into Ernest Zacharevic's Murals

Ernest Zacharevic, affectionately known as "Zach" was born in 1986 in Lithuania and later moved to Penang Malaysia. As an artist, he seamlessly merges fine art techniques that he learned at the National Art Academy in Vilnius Lithuania, with an outdoor artistic passion, constantly experimenting and evolving his concepts.

His artistic range spans oil painting, stencil and spray, installation, and sculpture, breaking free from artistic constraints and effortlessly moving between disciplines. He embraces the dynamic relationship between art and the urban landscape, with his inspiration coming from the immediate environment, community, and culture.

As the capital city of the State of Penang in Malaysia, George Town is proud of its UNESCO World Heritage site listing. In 2012, organisers of the George Town Festival, collaborated with Ernest Zacharevic to produce a series of public murals. These murals were the first public art project for Zach and depicted Penang’s bustling lifestyle. Twelve years later they still attract thousands of visitors every month - including Geo himself.

Boy on a Bike mural by Ernest Zacharevic, Penang Malaysia - The Geo Kid Travel Journal ~ Boy on a Bike

A Mural Wonderland

His artwork is interactive and engaging, encouraging visitors to be a part of the scene. Listed below are some of the iconic murals capturing the essence of Zacharevic's storytelling adorning the streets of George Town, Penang.

  • "Children on a Bicycle" - Location: 2 Armenian Street, George Town
  • "Boy on a Bike" - Location: 12 Lbh Ah Quee, George Town
  • "Little Girl in Blue" - Location: 41 Muntri Street, George Town
  • "Brother and Sister on a Swing" - Location: 63 Gat Lebuh Chulia, George Town
  • "Reaching Up" - Location: Cannon Street, George Town
  • "Children Playing Basketball" - Location: 59 Gat Lebuh Chulia, George Town
  • "Boy with Pet Dinosaur" - Location: 12 Lbh Ah Quee, George Town
  • "A Day at the Beach" - Location: Lebuh Armenian, George Town
  • “Slide” – Location: 41 Jln Buckingham
  • "Trishaw Man" - Location: 50, Jln Penang, George Town

Trishaw Man mural by Ernest Zacharevic, Penang Malaysia- The Geo Kid Travel Journal ~Trishaw Man

The Tale of 'Trishaw Man': Significance and Creation

Nestled in the heart of George Town, 'Trishaw Man' is more than a mural—it's an enormous piece of Penang's living history. Measuring approximately 15.2m x 15.2m this masterpiece pays homage to the traditional trishaw drivers of Penang, capturing the spirit of a bygone era. It is situated at Latitude 5.421433, Longitude 100.3337 right opposite the Trishaw station. Its creation date? A moment frozen in time in 2012.

Trishaw Drivers: Guardians of Penang's Heritage

But what is a trishaw, and who are these drivers? Trishaws, introduced to Penang in the 1930s, are pedal-powered rickshaws that once dominated the city's transportation. Today, trishaw drivers embody living history, pedalling through the streets, offering not just rides for visitors to George Town, but a glimpse into the cultural tapestry of Penang.

Encounter with Living History: Geo Meets the Trishaw Man!!

In our own Penang adventure, Geo had a remarkable encounter. Face to face with whom we believe to be the rugged man in the mural, identifiable by his mottled skin markings and broad gentle smile, we learned the man had been plying the streets as a trishaw driver for decades. Our wonderful guide, Eng Seong, translated for us and shared some interesting stories about Penang’s culture, its art, and history. The trishaw, a symbol of Penang's heritage, became a living story, and Geo's meeting with the famous mural's subject created a magical connection between art and reality. We were grateful he allowed us to take a few photos with him.

Meeting Penang's Trishaw Man ~ Perched between the man and the mural

In case you hadn’t guessed it, Ernest Zacharevic’s Trishaw Man is the inspiration for our Penang Street Art Explorer backpack.

Fading Murals: Navigating the Shadows of Penang's Art Heritage

In a development reported by Malaysia’s The Star newspaper, sadly Penang's iconic murals, including The Trishaw Man, are fading, now cast as mere shadows of their once-vibrant selves. The article sheds light on the challenges these artworks are encountering, attributing their fading to factors like weathering, neglect, and general deterioration.

The murals, which once painted a lively narrative on the streets of Penang, are now grappling with the passage of time. Despite their gradual decline, the community, along with local authorities, is stepping up efforts to address the issue and revive these artistic treasures. This unfolding story underscores the significance of preserving Penang's rich street art heritage, prompting a collective campaign to repaint and breathe new life into these cultural landmarks.

Global Art Footprints: Zacharevic's Murals Across Continents Ernest's artistic endeavours extend far beyond Penang. His murals grace the streets of Italy, Singapore, Lisbon, Las Vegas, Norway and Dubai, each telling a unique story. Explore Zacharevic's portfolio, articles delving into his creative process, and exclusive insights on his Instagram page (@ernestzacharevic) and website (

And there's more! 

As we researched Ernest Zacharevic for his Penang murals, it became clear that his artistic brilliance extends far beyond the streets. He also founded 'CultPrint' - a platform that would enable fellow creatives such as artists, printmakers, photographers, and writers, to have complete independence in printmaking, allowing artists to authentically produce their art.

Diving deeper still, we discovered that behind this artistic entrepreneur lies a dedicated advocate, fervently championing environmental causes through impactful projects like Splash & Burn.

Splash & Burn: Artistic Activism for Conservation and Human Rights

Ernest Zacharevic's commitment to environmental advocacy takes centre stage in the impactful project, Splash & Burn. As an artist deeply connected to the natural world, Zacharevic collaborates with other artists, environmentalists, and local communities to address the urgent challenges posed by deforestation, particularly in Sumatra's Palm Oil industry and its devastating impact on biodiversity, including the endangered orangutans.

Splah & Burn logo

The project utilises artists murals, installations, and multimedia campaigns strategically placed in deforestation-affected areas, aiming to raise awareness and prompt urgent action. Zacharevic's dedication to environmental causes extends beyond Splash & Burn; his collaboration on 'Stop the Haze' with Greenpeace and Studio Birthplace seeks to amplify awareness about the transboundary haze resulting from toxic fumes in palm oil production. By merging artistic expression with environmental activism, Zacharevic ignites a ripple effect of awareness, emphasizing the interconnectedness of conservation and human rights. He is committed to making a tangible difference and inspiring positive change on a global scale.

Transboundary Haze picture of Ernest Zacharevic's art

Beyond the Brush Strokes

As we conclude our journey through the vibrant streets painted by Ernest Zacharevic, we invite you to delve deeper into the artist's multifaceted world. Explore his ever-evolving concepts, from the bustling urban landscapes to the lush canvases of conservation activism. To witness the breadth of his artistic expression and advocacy, visit Ernest Zacharevic's official website and immerse yourself in the stories told through his brush strokes.

Together, let's paint a brighter, more compassionate future. 🌍🎨✨


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