Growing up in Kuching, I was the only daughter and the eldest among my four other brothers. My father worked in construction while my mother was a homemaker. When I was an infant, I had a high fever which led to my loss of hearing. Thus, I studied at a School for The Deaf at Batu Lintang from primary 1 until Form 3. As an adult, I can’t recollect any of the sounds I might have heard before losing my hearing, but I can sometimes hear extremely loud explosions of firecrackers.
When I was six or seven years old, I started drawing with encouragement from my father. He thought this was something I could do later in life and which I could also do from home, seeing my hearing disability. I soon realised that I liked to draw a lot, taking pictures from books, comics and photographs, and trying to sketch from them. I especially enjoyed drawing cartoons. I didn’t have a specific role model or someone to mentor me as I was growing up, I just painted whatever caught my interest. It was sometime around 1986 that I turned my hand to drawing elements of nature and landscapes. I started placing my artwork at my brother’s picture- framing shop. Customers would walk in and see my paintings on display, and then purchase them, over time, I was commissioned to do pieces for some customers.
When I was a teenager, I was also a swimmer, I represented the state in a national competition organized by the Welfare Department for people with disabilities. I still swim regularly to pass time, but a sketchpad and drawing tool is what I prefer more. I’m also a member of the Urban Sketchers Kuching, sometimes we sketch- walk to various places where we do on- site drawings.
People often ask me on my opinions if suddenly I could hear again. But at this stage, if I was given the chance to hear and talk, I would say no because it means I have to learn everything from scratch. I am happy the way I am. I have learnt to accept it. Although it is pretty frustrating sometimes. For example, most people don’t know how to use sign language and there is a communication barrier with those who are hearing people. The frustration is there and I have to keep to myself a lot while people are talking around me. But I definitely think that people with hearing disabilities shouldn’t by deterred by shyness or awkwardness, we definitely should express ourselves even if we are born with something different from others. We should not be limited by our bodies.
We have our own language which is sign language, and this is how we communicate. We are not weird or abnormal. Hearing people can just talk. When we talk, we use facial expressions and hands – that’s how we are.
This is our language — how we communicate. There is no such thing as you are normal and I am abnormal. We just communicate through different ways.