Out From The Vestiges

By Rachel Yeoh

February 2024 PHOTO ESSAY
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One from the first fleet of Hin Buses. This picture was taken circa 1947.

Photos from Tan Shih Thoe

JUST A LITTLE over a decade ago, if you were standing in the dilapidated remains of Hin Bus Depot, you might think, “What could possibly come out of this place?” Well, the proprietors were also in the dark about its potential. However, today, Hin Bus Depot has transformed into more than just a thriving hub for art and artists; it has become a sustainable placemaking space. As the revitalised depot celebrates its 10th Anniversary, commemorated by the launch of “Art is Rubbish is Art” by Ernest Zacharevic in 2014, we look back on its humble beginnings of what it was and the journey to be what it is today.

Hin Bus Depot in the early days. Before the road fronting, and before it was named Jalan Gurdwara, it was called Brick Kiln Road as there was a brick-baking establishment in the area.

The first order of business when clearing the space was to cut the grass before more work could be done with the buildings.

Hin Bus Depot was where the “blue motorbuses” were maintained, and Shell lubricants were probably used at the former depot.

The state of the depot compound when it was first acquired by the partners.

The bare roof meant that the space where the buses used to park was exposed to the elements.

Managing Director Tan Shih Thoe’s basic principle was to retain the old design of the place as much as possible and only add what was necessary, like trees, the lawn and the raised timber deck. The red patch was there for a big part of Hin Bus Depot until it was accidentally painted over.

The entrance of Hin Bus Depot was initially lined with vehicles owned by clients of a nearby car workshop. Upon acquiring the space, the owners had to formally request the removal of these cars from the vicinity.

Work in progress inside the exhibition hall.

Ernest painting a girl in kungfu garb doing a bridge on one of the Hin Bus Depot compound walls in preparation for his first solo exhibition in Penang.

Ernest working on the larger-than-life boy with the traffic cone.

Old wooden blinds become a canvas for Ernest’s trishaw man.

One of Ernest’s life-size mural of a girl holding balloons.

While people usually discard loan shark pamphlets, Ernest uses them to stick on a shark’s fin—a loan shark’s fin.

Rachel Yeoh

is a former journalist who traded her on-the-go job for a life behind the desk. For the sake of work-life balance, she participates in Penang's performing arts scene after hours.