‘Don’t expect too little from us’: cartoonist breaks the autism barrier

Luqman Hakim starts every day by going to the gym, usually as early as 6 a.m., to prepare physically and mentally for the next 12 hours he will spend working, although not in the conventional sense.

After finishing his training, he walks to a cafe about 300 meters from his apartment, where he does his shopping at a small table.

There he spends the day drawing the comics on behalf of his clients.

While he is drawing, he is listening to music through his headphones. Forehead wrinkled in concentration, oblivious to the curious looks he gets from passersby. All he thinks about is his job.

Luqman, who turned 29 this year, was born with mild autism. But despite his condition, he can live well on his own, in his small house in Cyberjaya, Selangor.

He also works for a living and takes care of himself like everyone else.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Luqman said he felt uneasy about the way society views autistic people.

He said that many look down on them, which can make them doubt their own.

“We expect too little from people with autism,” he said. “We think, ‘They can’t do this, they can’t do that.’ So they’re stuck there.”

However, Luqman is living proof that such beliefs are not always true.

He started drawing comics and caricatures at the age of four. At that time, he only managed to draw the cartoon heroes he saw on television.

“Wherever I went, my parents brought me pencils and paper to draw with, to keep me from becoming hyperactive,” he said.

Unlike many people with autism, Luqman prefers to be outside his home, although he does remain on his own.

Normally he can spend two days in the cafe drawing his comics.

He decided at the age of 17 to take comics seriously, telling himself that this would be his path to a career.

His parents supported his decision and gave him the freedom to choose for himself.

“Parents can’t do much to comfort autistic children,” he said. “They need to be given skills and training.

“When parents find out that their children are autistic, they don’t take them outside anywhere – this is not true.

“They can be controlled, if they know the right methods and strategies. It’s hard, but they have to help their kids get used to it so they understand.”

Now Luqman has been a comic artist since 2020. Before that, he did freelance work drawing portraits and other types of artwork.

Today he focuses on comics.

Much of his passion for drawing is based on his love of Japanese animation, more commonly known as anime or manga.

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He also watches Western comics documentaries such as the Marvel Comics series and DC Studio in the US.

“At that time, I knew I wanted to become a part of that culture,” he said.

honey talent

Where Luqman was once actively involved in drawing competitions and exhibitions, he now focuses on the production of comics and commissioned drawings.

He even receives orders from famous people and legal entities.

This is largely due to a simple sketch he made two years ago of Health Director General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on the side of his cardboard coffee cup that made him famous.

He even met Noor Hisham himself after photos of his drawing went viral on social media.

“He was very tall and good,” he said, recalling the meeting.

Luqman also took second place in a competition organized by the French Embassy, ​​while several of his drawings were exhibited at a shopping center in the capital in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month.

Even today, his desire to keep learning has never ceased. Sometimes he watches videos on the internet to learn new skills. He also learns about drawing theories and practices the techniques he finds in his books.

“Drawing doesn’t just depend on talent,” he said.

“You have to keep practicing yourself. Keep learning and keep practicing.”

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