George Town Festival (GTF) returns from 15 - 30 July 2023, promising a spectacular celebration of art, culture, and heritage for all to experience. The 16-day festival presents a myriad of outstanding artistic works by Malaysian and international artists, featuring productions across varied art forms ranging from traditional, contemporary, experimental, and multidisciplinary. This makes George Town Festival 2023 the most exciting iteration in recent years, bridging tangible and intangible heritage through continued global artistic partnership and exchange.
The George Town Festival was first mooted in 2010 to honour George Town's inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Over the last 14 years, GTF has raised the visibility of the city's heritage while creating spaces and platforms for increased cultural engagement through the arts. Since its inaugural edition, GTF has become a hallmark event in Malaysia and remains an avenue for creatives, festival-goers and stakeholders to engage with the arts and one another, spurring discussions, bilateral relations, and increased collaborations through and for the arts.
Currently in its 14th edition, GTF 2023 features over 50 programmes with free access to 70% of its shows and events. The programme line-up includes several premiering and debut productions, indigenous-ethniccultural performances, digital installations, books and game launches, community-based events, and a series of arts masterclasses, workshops, and forums.
They will be held at over 20 locations across the cityscapes of George Town and wider Penang.
An influential voice in the arts, George Town Festival is committed to investing in creativity and originality - catalysing new and experimental works for festival-goers to witness and experience. This year's curation tethers exceptional creations by artists and performers across different disciplines, many of which will premiere at GTF, giving audiences new perspectives on how the arts can reflect and celebrate the human experience.
To further stimulate global artistic partnerships, GTF 2023 will facilitate performances and events between artists from East and West Malaysia and creative exchange with Taiwan and Australia.
Through collaborative efforts with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia, GTF 2023 sees the fifth edition of Isle to Isle with pulu'em, a musical offering by the celebrated indigenous Taiwanese singer, Sangpuy, and the award-winning production Luna by the Bularyaung Dance Company. There will also be a screening of Inspirations from the Southeast - Penang, Malaysia, which features the diverse forms of heritage in George Town.
This year, George Town Festival partners with the Australian High Commission as a channel to honour the 50th-anniversary celebration of George Town and Adelaide as sister cities. A highlight of this is The Senses presenting a sensory and immersive musical experience within the naturescapes of Penang Hill's 130-million-year-old rainforest.
In its effort to deepen awareness and appreciation of traditional art forms, GTF 2023 also includes several ethnic-traditional cultural performances to help elevate the visibility of intangible heritage in Penang and beyond. Highlights in the programme are Panggung Semar bhumiMATA, and The Monkey King Adventures: Love of Onibaba.
Extending the list of highlights are programmes such as the Riso Art Jam, which delves into the vibrant world of Risography through an art exhibition, art bazaar, and a public forum. Lovers of literature and language are also promised a mesmerising evening with acclaimed author Tan Twan Eng and the launch of his highly anticipated book The House of Doors.
GTF 2023 is organised to unite local communities and festival-goers across ages, background localities, and nationalities around a shared love of art. In recognising that the arts have ti power to inspire and transform, TF 2023 extends its commitment to community engageme through family-oriented and children-friendly events, thus remaining a people-centric platfor bringing arts to the community to widen participation for the people of Penang.
George Town Festival 2023 closes with Light in the City on 30 July along Beach Street, presenting an eclectic display of colours, patterns, textures, and narratives. The ceremony is a culmination of all things arts, filling the street with representations of the past, present, and imagined futures, stretching the possibilities and visibility of the arts in the city's environs.
At its core, George Town Festival 2023 positions art as the thread which weaves tradition, culture, and heritage, creating a tapestry of our humanity - a celebration of the power and possibilities of the arts and the difference it makes in our lives.
This is art in all its glory. A festival for everyone, as it should be.
George Town Festival 2023 is a project by George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), organised by TLM Event, and endorsed by the Penang State Government and the Penang State EXCO for Tourism and Creative Economy (PETACE). It is fully supported by the City Council of Penang Island (MBPP) and Penang Global Tourism (PGT).
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