myBALIKpulau, Arts-ED, PENANG (myBALIKpulau PROGRAMME), 2005 – 2010

The Interpretation Signage Project encouraged children to study a cultural asset in their town (a heritage trade or building) and to design a creative signage to be installed inside or outside the site as a visual interpretation for the visitor.

The participants are observing the silversmith, Mr Fong Ten Sent, demonstrating the making of silverware.
Source: Arts-ED

The participants are observing the silversmith, Mr Fong Ten Sent, demonstrating the making of silverware. Source: Arts-ED


This interpretation is based on the Archive Record Inventory of the “Interpretation Signage” Project.

Download the Archive Record Inventory (PDF)


1.1 Programme Name

myBALIKpulau Programme, 2005-2010

1.2 Project Title

Balik Pulau Interpretation Signage PROJECT, 2009

1.3 Context and Objective

The Balik Pulau Interpretation Signage project was created as the sequel to the highly successful Heritage Trail Map project. Now that the cultural heritage assets had been mapped out for visitors in the self-guided discovery map, the team proposed to give visitors a better understanding of the assets by creating visual-based signage to interpret selected sites. The myBALIKpulau team had initially tried to commission interpretation signages from professional artists; this approach failed as the design concepts delivered were not sensitive to the aesthetics of the place. The team then decided to work with children to produce interpretation signages.

The project’s aims, as stated in the Balik Pulau Interpretation Signage Proposal, was to continue to engage young participants in discovering and learning about Balik Pulau’s historical and cultural assets by providing an avenue for them to engage with local historical sites and their communities, as well as to interpret cultural trades and artefacts through visual-based signage. A secondary objective was to expose these students to art skill training from visual artists, and to help them apply these skills by creating their own interpretative works.

Supporting Archival Material

Arts-ED. (2009). Balik Pulau Interpretation Signage Proposal (PDF)

1.4 Project Description

The project involved 71 children in a preliminary poster competition, 24 of whom subsequently participated in the signage design project which was conducted over 10 days. Guest artists Yeoh Lai Heng & Aishah Baharuddin provided skills training while the project was coordinated and facilitated by a 3-person team from Arts-ED.

1.5 Source Material

Source materials for these projects were five cultural assets of Balik Pulau; three of the assets were tangible built heritage (Balik Pulau Roundabout, Shophouse No. 100 and the Roman Catholic Church) and two were intangible heritage i.e. traditional trades (a Silver Craft trader and a Food Trader [Laksa]). Besides visiting these cultural assets for themselves, the students were also presented with background history on these cultural assets, as sourced from research data collected from previous myBALIKpulau projects (2005 – 2008). These secondary source materials provided students with context and background of the assets before they started on their projects.

Supporting Archival Material

Arts-ED. (2017). Cultural Assets of Balik Pulau – House No.100 (PDF)

1.6 Organiser/Producer


1.7 Project Lead

Coordinator: Chen Yoke Pin

Assistant Coordinator/Workshop Facilitator: Chia Pei Shan

1.8 Creative Team

Visual Artists: Yeoh Lai Heng & Aishah Baharuddin

1.9 Participants

Participants in the Poster Competition

SJKC Chong Teik 10 – 12 years 10 participants
SJKC Sacred Heart 10 – 12 years 16 participants
SJKC Yeok Hua 10 – 12 years 8 participants
SK Balik Pulau 10 – 12 years 18 participants
SK Kongsi 10 – 12 years 16 participants
SMJK Sacred Heart 13 – 17 years 1 participant
SMK St. George 13 – 17 years 2 participants
 TOTAL Number of Participants 71 Participants

Participants in the Workshops

SJKC Chong Teik (1 – 4 June) 10 – 12 years 6 participants
SJKC Sacred Heart (1 – 4 June) 10 – 12 years 2 participants
SK Balik Pulau (1 – 4 June) 10 – 12 years 4 participants
SK Kongsi (1 – 4 June) 10 – 12 years 3 participants
SSMK St. George (1 – 4 June) 13 – 17 years 2 participants
SK Balik Pulau (8 – 11 June) 10 – 12 years 7 participant
 TOTAL Number of Participants 24 Participants

1.10 Events and Activities

31 May 2009 Recruitment Competition Perpustakaan Awam Balik Pulau Balik Pulau
Training and Execution
1 – 4 June 2009 Familiarisation & Training Workshop SJKC Sacred Heart / Selected historical sites in Balik Pulau Balik Pulau
8 – 11 June 2009 Workshop on constructing the signage JKC Sacred Heart / Selected historical sites in Balik Pulau Balik Pulau
5, 12 June 2009 Showcase in school SJKC Sacred Heart Balik Pulau  –

1.11 Promotional Material/Catalogue/Programme

A promotional poster and an application form were created for the recruitment of students for the poster competition.

Supporting Archival Materials

Fig. 1: Recruitment Poster. Source: Arts-ED

Fig. 2: Application form for poster competition. Source: Arts-ED

1.12 Final Script/Final Curriculum


1.13 Multimedia Documentation


1.14 Previews and Reviews


1.15 Publications


1.16 Photographs


1.17 Final Report/Project Evaluation:




Recruitment & Familiarisation with the Site

The recruitment of students for the project was launched with a poster-making competition, aimed at discovering talented and interested students for the Interpretation Signage Project. The competition was jointly organised with the Perpustakaan Awam Balik Pulau (Balik Pulau Public Library). This recruitment strategy of using a competition open to both primary and secondary school students was a success as 71 students from various schools participated, of which 24 were selected to join the project.

The competition required the children to produce posters which would be able to inform visitors about the history or background of a cultural asset in Balik Pulau. Students were shown a slideshow outlining the history of Balik Pulau and two of the town’s  cultural assets; the roundabout and a silversmith. After receiving the background information, students were asked to select and communicate any part of the history or cultural assets of Balik Pulau through a poster visualisation, which included comics, illustrations, collages, drawings, and paintings.

At the end of the allotted time, the artwork was judged by the children as well as the adult judges from the Arts-ED team, based on only one criterion – “interesting information.” As part of the training, the children were asked to explain why they had selected certain pieces over another, and discussions were held regarding the merits of the pieces.

Supporting Archival Material

Introduction to Balik Pulau Cultural Assets (Teaching Aid) (PDF)


Skill Training

Two visual artists, Yeoh Lai Heng and Aishah Baharuddin from Kuala Lumpur, were commissioned to help the 24 participants compose and develop their signage project. The Arts-ED team provided the artists with a site visit to familiarise them with the Balik Pulau area, then followed up with a discussion on potential forms of signage and materials.

Unlike earlier Balik Pulau projects, where students selected their own topics for research, this time the team pre-selected subjects based on research already conducted by earlier cohorts of students.

Five proposed cultural assets were suggested as subjects, including historical sites such as the Balik Pulau Roundabout, Shophouse No. 100 and the Roman Catholic Church as well as two traditional trades; the Silversmith (Mr Fong), and Laksa of Balik Pulau (Mrs Ewe).

On the first day of this week-long workshop, students received a familiarisation tour. This began with a Balik Pulau Heritage Walk and visits to the selected subjects, where the students were introduced to the history of Balik Pulau in general, and the selected sites/personalities in greater detail.

The standard approaches used by Arts-ED were employed in the art-making process – beginning with research, on-site sketching, interviews, introduction to artistic techniques, reflection and discussion, and finally, visual interpretation of the research subjects. The artists’ role involved little curation and programming, as they mainly assisted the children in developing technical and design skills. The students were taught various artistic tools and creative signage-making techniques by the artists.


The students were also given the chance to carry out a short question and answer session with the site owners or personalities involved but not much research was carried out beyond this; as the objective of this project was to nurture visual arts skills. The subject matter had already been curated for the students and materials on the subjects (based on earlier myBALIKpulau research) were provided to them as secondary sources. Thus, the key thrust of this workshop was the interpretation of the data given to them.

Fig. 6 Participant drawing a map of Balik Pulau town.
Source: Arts-ED

Fig. 6 Participant drawing a map of Balik Pulau town. Source: Arts-ED

By the second day of the workshops, the students began to devise their interpretation signages. The students worked in five assigned groups, and went out to their respective sites in Balik Pulau to start sketching the subjects and to conduct any further research they deemed necessary. They made sketches of their assigned subjects then compiled the sketches together with provided texts, which were sourced from previous myBALIKpulau research projects.

Over the next two days, the students regrouped at SJKC Sacred Heart to review their materials (both from primary and secondary sources) and began discussing and drafting out their interpretation signages. The students were encouraged to try out the various techniques taught – illustrations, creative drawing, and collages – and select which form they would use for their signage. They also explored different drawing techniques and learnt basic art theory on subjects such as shapes, lines, and colours. Once satisfied with their drafts, they began creating their final signage.


The final interpretation signages were showcased at the end of the workshop to the parents of children involved. Students produced excellent collage work using the artistic forms introduced by the artists, as well as manifesting the historical content provided by the facilitators. The works expressed tremendous creativity as pieces of art.

In the initial plan, the childrens’ artworks were expected to be mounted at the respective locations. However, this turned out to be quite impossible and reflected the lack of planning with regards to the programming. The creative team had not anticipated how the signage ideas would transform from concepts and artworks, into easy-to-mount signage that would be able to fit on the inside or outside of the cultural site and withstand weathering. There was clearly no thought put into the syllabus to allow for this transition into product application.

As the guest artists’ terms were concluded after a week, an attempt was made to collaborate with a new artist to work on the children outputs so that they could be installed on site. However, this failed to materialise as it was too difficult to manage a new artist who was unfamiliar with the site and the project. The intention to hang the signages at the respective sites was ultimately abandoned. While the children may have gained from the process, the public did not.