Co-founder, Malaysian Sign Language and Deaf Studies Association
He leads the fight for the rights of the deaf community through the Malaysian Sign Language
In 2021, Anthony Alexander Chong received a £8,000 (approximately RM40,000) grant from the British Council Connections Through Culture to empower 13 deaf Malaysian women through sign poetry. The five-month training programme with British artists/educators culminated in a collection of poetry utilising Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM) or Malaysian Sign Language.
He followed this achievement by securing RM10,000 from the Krishen Jit Fund, created to encourage and support experimental creative work in Malaysia, to run a workshop for deaf participants to develop BIM literature in different artistic forms: poetry, translated poem, visual vernacular, drama, folktales. The women poets from the British Council initiative went from being students to become facilitators at this workshop.
These steps might seem small but they have far-reaching impact. For one, it has brought greater public awareness of the Malaysian Sign Language and Deaf Studies Association, co-founded by Chong, who also serves as its secretary. The organisation works to elevate the status of BIM, which is crucial to protect the rights of the deaf community.
BIM is recognised by the Malaysian government through the enactment of the Persons With Disabilities Act in 2008 and is used on national broadcast and official functions, but it is woefully underused in daily life.
Born deaf to hearing parents, Chong’s efforts have been instrumental in developing the BIM culture beyond a mere communication tool into a form of artistic expression as well.
“The production of BIM poems has awakened many deaf people in Malaysia that they are actually capable in creating BIM poems; they just need to be assertive in learning poetic techniques.”
“My next goal is to establish a BIM research centre for the development of a BIM corpus. It is an important step to prove that BIM is a separate language and not a reflection of the Malay or English language.”
Did You Know?
Anthony Alexander Chong has two Master's degrees as well as a PhD in anthropology and sociology from University of Malaya, making him the first deaf person to receive a doctorate from the prestigious local university.