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October 31, 2003

George Town through the lens

From: Penang, Malaysia - Oct 31, 2003


WITHOUT visual photographs, the deaf can't understand what the world is. Photographs create a history that preserves our heritage.

Those were the words of a Malaysian deaf student who captured the uniqueness of George Town’s heritage in 1,500 images that were partly exhibited at the Dyer Arts Centre in New York this year.

The centre is at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) located on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where Alor Star-born Leon Lim Mian Sheng, 24, is studying as a third-year student in Interior Design.

Lim had chosen 30 of his best shots for the exhibition entitled “George Town: Exhausted Streets After Midnight”.

“The photographs of George Town document the daily life of the people, culture, old buildings, the day and night of the city and destroyed buildings.

“They are a symbol of conflict, struggle, emotion, loss, diversity, technology and change,” he said in an e-mail interview from New York.

“In my opinion, old buildings in George Town are very unique and remarkable. Not many countries have the same kind of architecture as George Town,” said Lim.

Lim, who has four hearing siblings, studied at SM Pendidikan Khas in Tanjung Bungah and the Equator Academy of Art and Design, both in Penang, before leaving for RIT in the US in 2000 on scholarships from Japan and America.

He said RIT had 14,000 hearing students and 1,000 deaf students but he was the only deaf student in the Interior Design class for the last three years.

On the exhibition, he had made a request to RIT vice-president Dr Robert Davila and the Dean of NTID who were impressed with his artwork.

“They said George Town is very unique in its architecture, people and culture. They sponsored me for the exhibition and said it was their first time to finance a student for an exhibition,” he said.

Lim said he would set up another display of 80 to 100 pictures next year on the topic “George Town: Where Penang began”.

“Taking photographs is always thought-provoking and beautiful to me.

“I want to focus on George Town because many buildings are disrespectfully damaged and have mysteriously disappeared.

“I want to preserve the heritage of George Town from destruction or the loss of its multi-culture,” said Lim.

He said the photographs documented the daily life of the people, culture, old architectural buildings, the day and night of the city and the destroyed buildings.

Lim said he viewed them as being symbolic of the conflict, struggle, emotion, feeling of loss, diversity, technology and change taking place in George Town.

Heritage was not the only thing that Lim wished to capture and preserve through photography as he also hoped to do his part in inspiring and helping the deaf community in Malaysia in time to come.

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