Two year after Lim graduated from his secondary school, he decided to do an art project with Deaf pupils at his former school, Federation School for the Deaf (FSD) which is well-known as Malaysia’s oldest Deaf school, because with Lim’s sympathy, over 100 Deaf pupils stayed at the school’s hostels and only went to their family homes once a month, some once 6 months, and some once a year. Honestly, living at the school’s hostel is like a prison. Lim was very lucky to have a real freedom by living alone at his three-room apartment at the age of only 14.
Lim asked his former favorite teacher named Vicky Teoh to help making calls with a coin-operated public telephone booth to contact different companies for sponsorship for his art project. Two months later, he received four big boxes of acrylic paints, twenty stacks of old newspapers, and a gift of money. He discussed the project with the school’s principal for permission to use the school’s properties. Once the school granted his request, he spent four days to make two biggest white canvases with layered and glued old newspapers in the school’s council hall. On the day of August 1999, he and Deaf pupils brought the two canvases out from the council hall to the field. Lim explained to 80 pupils from the FSD’s primary and secondary schools about how to make their own art or freedom or happiness or fun by using their bodies such as hands, feet, legs, faces or/and hairs to draw on the canvases with non-toxic acrylic paints. Suddenly the pupils raised eyebrows and had jaw dropping because they didn’t learn anything like that from their art classes. They felt so excited because they got a rare chance to feel real freedom by disconnecting their same stressful experiences of being punished and scolded for any inappropriate behaviors or lack of understanding for a while. With the canvases they had 2-3 hours to feel free by drawing what they wanted or painting on their bodies without being worried about teachers’ punishments.
This art project, “What’s In The Deaf’s Mind?” is Lim’s very first time to play a role as a project director or artistic director of the art project, just 2 years after his graduation from the FSD. The sad truth is that no one gave and still gives Deaf people any leadership position to do an art project in Malaysia like Lim’s art project, “What’s In The Deaf’s Mind?“.
Sadly, Lim didn’t preserved the canvases when he lived in New York City and his family house didn’t have a space for his old artworks. Lim hopes to do that art project again with current pupils at his former school, like “What’s In The Deaf’s Mind After 25 Years?” before the school will move out of Penang when he returns to Malaysia one day.