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Sunday January 8, 2012

Much to contribute

LIM Anuar has been working hard on a 37sqm space at the Coffees of Hawaii outlet in Petaling Jaya for the past month. The artist, who has been deaf since birth, was asked to paint the outlet’s mural.

The Lim Kok Wing University creative director is fresh from clinching a gold medal for silk painting at the 2011 Seoul Abilympics (an international skills contest for persons with disabilities that was held first in 1981 to commemorate the United Nations’ International Year of People with Disabilities) but is taking this task slowly, as it is the first time the 42-year-old has attempted a mural.

Even before asking him about the mural, though, I had to ask the question that people no doubt always ask when they’re first introduced to Lim: how did he get his unusual name? It turns out that his name was supposed to be “On Wah” but became “Anuar” due to a spelling error in his birth certificate.

His mother was illiterate, hence the error, but she was determined Lim would get an education; so at just three years old, he was sent to the Federation School for the Deaf in Penang – for such a little boy, it was far away indeed from his family in Petaling Jaya. Lim signs that had to endure homesickness and bullying from the older boys. Most vivid in his memory is how he cried himself to sleep every night. But Lim persevered; as he signs, that’s what you need to break out of the prison of silence: sacrifice, courage and perseverance.

Lim Anuar working on the mural in Coffees of Hawaii.

During those difficult years he found solace in art and having developed his hobby into a skill he was granted a full scholarship at the Lim Kok Wing Institute to study architectural design.

“It was only when I entered the working world did I realise the full impact of my disability. The biggest challenge was in understanding what the bosses wanted. The second was the learning process, which is not an easy thing to do when you can only really rely on sight,” signs Lim.

All in, this independent bachelor has changed jobs 14 times, working as a cartoonist, interior designer and animation artist. In the beginning, much of the job shifting was largely due to his inability to fit in with a work team but, over time, he found supportive friends who helped him to gain industry experience. His tenure with Lim Kok Wing University, where he has come up with concepts, ideas and designs in the last six years, is his longest one so far.

“The deaf have much to contribute if they are given a chance. Did you know that many inventions like the telephone and rear-view mirrors in cars were inspired by the deaf?” asks Lim with a smile.