Deaf Artist, Lim Anuar Shares His Voice Through Paintings

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Lim Anuar is known as an illustrator, artist and designer. Having been born deaf, he completed his early education at the Federation School for the Deaf in Penang. This meant that he wasn’t able to hear nor speak, however, he was able to read, write, and utilise sign language to communicate with those who use it as well[1].

Lim Anuar went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Architecture from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and enrolled on the Master of Art in Visual Art program which was offered by the University of Malaya in 2013[1]. In addition to this, he went forth to gain other skills to add to the list, like taking leadership training in Japan for the Deaf.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 reported that 11.1% of Malaysians above the age of 18 have disabilities and 1 in 4 Malaysian adults go through functional difficulties in one of the following areas; remembering, hearing, seeing, walking, self-care and communicating[2].

Moreover, attempting to join the workforce can be difficult for PwDs, as they do not receive the same amount of opportunities as the rest. According to 2019 statistics from the Public Service Department, there were only 3,686 people with disabilities employed or 0.29% of the total workforce in Malaysia[3]

As for Lim Anuar, he spent over 25 years working for various companies as a designer, illustrator and art director. In 2012, he took the bold step to work independently and has been self-employed ever since. 

He also had the opportunity to participate in many art competitions and exhibitions in India, Australia, Taiwan, Japan and Malaysia. In 2011, he won a gold medal in silk painting, representing Malaysia in the 8th International Abilympic (Olympic of Ability) in Korea.

In 2013, two of his paintings were chosen to be exhibited in the Arts Kuala Lumpur exhibition in Miami, Florida, United States. In addition to this, five of his paintings were also picked for the Arts Kuala Lumpur exhibition in 2014 and 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.

The Seed That Started His Love For Art

His inspiration and motivation stemmed from his childhood experiences growing up in Penang. Lim Anuar’s favourite objects for art when he first started painting were dragons and phoenixes. For his first art promotion, he made use of the sceneries of his childhood, which involved the flora and fauna, showcasing his unique interpretation.

Lim Anuar was also motivated by the requests of foreigners and therefore made use of batik paintings to realise his vision and illustrate batik paintings based on tradition, culture and heritage to be exhibited and promoted over the globe.

My works draw inspiration from my childhood experiences growing up in Penang, which is very diverse, with people from all walks of life and that is my identity as Lim Anuar, the Malaysian batik artist. – Lim Anuar, Artist

Since the beginning of his art hobby, Lim Anuar explored and ventured into the vast universe of the art world, visiting whilst studying the art galleries and museums. That included art education, which consisted of art history, art theory and visual culture.

For him, art is a form of communication to share his thoughts and voice his opinions, allowing the audience to enter into his world of Deaf culture.

I express myself through drawing and painting on canvas to voice my opinion, share my thoughts, and exchange ideas through art exhibitions. My painting allows the audience who views it to enter into my world of Deaf culture. – Lim Anuar, Artist

However, every journey has its challenges and obstacles one has to face and do their best to overcome.

Overcoming Challenges That Come With Being Deaf

Although many different companies state that persons with disabilities are individuals who are productive, hard-working and reliable, it is clear that in the workforce they do not receive equal opportunities as others. According to research findings gathered from employed PwDs regarding the challenges they face at the workplace in Malaysia, some stated it was due to negative perception from the employers, lack of training to perform their jobs, limited accessibility to the workplace and so on[4].

For Lim Anuar, one of his biggest challenges was communication. His difficulty in communication was mainly due to not being able to voice his opinions and share his thoughts as he wished, or exchange ideas during the discussions due to his deafness which put him in a difficult spot.

During networking sessions, big group discussions or events, Lim Anuar notes that interpreters are not always available. Since PwDs are a minority, employers or event planners may not have the budget to hire an interpreter.

It has also made me give up, shy and withdrawn. Deaf people can’t speak and non-deaf people can’t sign well so they can’t communicate with each other. – Lim Anuar, Artist

Fortunately, with the advancement of technology, Deaf individuals like Lim Anuar are now able to settle the communication barrier through the use of text, email and live transcription.

However, as a self-employed artist, Lim Anuar runs into uncertainty when it involves getting paid assignments and income. In terms of obstacles in the art industry, it’s having to explore, come up with new ideas and find methods to create something different from his previous works.

Also, I don’t have much experience in art marketing and promotion. Getting funding, mentorship and training are other major obstacles. Another hurdle I have is handling the art business on my own. I learn hands-on and from mistakes made. I need to juggle the business side of it and produce artwork at the same time. – Lim Anuar, Artist

Achievements & Future Plans

Among the many achievements he attained, Lim Anuar is the first art director to be chosen and picked by Universiti Malaya. He has also been commissioned to create an enormous wall mural with floral motives, and various textile, product and architectural designs.

The client desired my concept design proposal through text and they didn’t know that I am Deaf. When I met them, they were shocked! – Lim Anuar, Artist

As of right now, Lim Anuar’s services in terms of visual art are created in his home and promoted at events and art exhibitions. One of the things he hopes for is to become a teacher for the Deaf community.

If I have the chance, I wish to be an art lecturer at a university for the Deaf when I get the offer. – Lim Anuar, self-employed artist

He hopes to set up a new space to showcase concept sketches to final products in textile and pattern surfaces to provide his empowerment to people with disabilities. He also wishes to globe trot and sketch scenes from his holidays.

In all his ambitions and aspirations, Lim Anuar wants to be known and respected as an artist and not be overshadowed by his disability.

My work is like a voice that I speak through my paintings. [The] deaf can do anything except hear. – Lim Anuar, Artist

For some people, hearing “disabled” makes them believe or assume they are different from the rest, and that achieving many things is out of their reach. However, such assumptions are very far from the truth and harmful as well.

They, too, have their own objectives, passions, ambitions and dreams they hope to achieve and obtain, just like any other individuals.

Another view about artists with disabilities is not sure whether the similarity or the difference between the skill and the quality of the painting produced by disabled and non-disabled artists. For a hand-painted artist with no skills to paint by using [their] mouth or foot, should it be named as a disabled artist only? – Lim Anuar, Artist

If you are interested in having a look at Lim Anuar’s spectacular works and projects, you can do so by checking them out on his website and Instagram.

Explore Our Sources:

  1. Lim Anuar. (n.d). My Stories. Link.
  2. Oku Rights Matter. (n.d). Disability Data – Be Counted to Count. Link.
  3. E. Khursyiah Basir. (2020). Lack Of Facilities Hamper Job Accessibility For OKU. Link.
  4. Manaf, A. R. A., Othman, S. Z., Isa, M. F. M., Noor, W. S. M. M., & Azizan, N. (2019). Employment Challenges among Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 9(10), 139–148. Link.

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