Couple tells story behind Zacharevic's famous mural on Penang street

GEORGE TOWN - Few people are aware that the characters in one of Penang’s famous street art were based on actual people.

While tens of thousands have taken photographs of the mural “Little Children On A Bicycle” in Armenian Street, not many know that the children portrayed were actually siblings Tan Yi and Tan Kern.

The captivating and expressive mural was painted in April last year by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacha­revic.

It all started when Tan Yi, six, and her brother, Tan Kern, four, were out with their parents Adrian Tan and Ashley Teoh, who are members of the Urban Sketchers Penang during a sketching walkabout, at the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling last year. Zacharevic was also at the event.

“Ernest came on his bicycle and my children were playing with the bike. While they were having fun, he noticed them and started taking their photographs.

“He captured that particular scene which has now become the famous mural,” Tan said.

Tan, an interior designer, said the artist later asked if he could paint the siblings.

“We never thought it would become such a hit,” he said.

The painting was recently picked by British daily The Guardian’s readers as one of the 15 favourite murals out of 378 submitted from around the world.

On the mural being vandalised on several occasions, Tan said they did not take it personally.

Vandals splattered wax and curry on the mural in August last year and July this year, but the mural was restored by good Samaritans.