All that glitters in George Town

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George Town’s trendy cafes and boutique hotels are often seen as a sign of the city’s revitalisation, but rising rents are pushing out long-time residents and, in the process, eroding the intangible cultural heritage for which the city was named a World Heritage Site.

The shop is cool, dark and charmingly cluttered. Floor-to-ceiling shelves overflow with brightly coloured paper printed with traditional Chinese motifs. The back wall is presided over by a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin, who gazes serenely across the room from atop her altar, flanked by glittering bouquets of gold paper flowers. Seated at a Formica table by the window, Elaine Har and her sister Ah Gaik sift languidly through piles of coloured paper.

This is Sin Taik Wang, a little shop on Pitt Street, where for decades the Hars have made traditional votive paper flowers, known as kim hua in Hokkien. The scene is timeless, but the shop – and George Town’s last remaining kim hua makers – may be gone by the end of the month.


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