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'Don't expect too little of us': comic artist pushes past autism barrier

Luqman Hakim, who shot to fame for his coffee cup sketch of health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, says he never gets tired of learning new things.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Autistic artist Luqman Hakim concentrates on his latest drawing project at a cafe in his neighbourhood.
Autistic artist Luqman Hakim concentrates on his latest drawing project at a cafe in his neighbourhood.

Luqman Hakim begins each day by hitting the gym, usually as early as 6am, to prepare himself physically and mentally for the next 12 hours which he will spend working, although not in the conventional sense. 

After he finishes his workout, he walks to a cafe about 300m away from his apartment where he sets up shop at a small table. 

There, he spends the day drawing the comics ordered by his clients.

As he draws, he listens to music through his headphones. Forehead wrinkled in concentration, he is unaware of the curious looks he receives from passersby. All he thinks about is his work. 

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

He also works for a living and takes care of himself like any other person. 

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

He said many look down on them, causing them to doubt their own abilities. 

"We expect too little of people with autism," he said. "We think, 'they can't do this, they can't do that'. So they are stuck there."

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


He began drawing comics and caricatures at the age of four. At that point, he only knew how to draw the cartoon heroes that he saw on television. 

"Wherever I went, my parents would bring pencils and paper for me to draw with, to keep me from becoming hyperactive," he said. 

Unlike many individuals with autism, Luqman prefers to be outside his home, although he does keep to himself. 

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

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

His parents were supportive of his decision, and allowed 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 anywhere outside – this isn't right. 

"They can be controlled, if they know the correct methods and strategies. It's hard, but they have to help their children get used to it, so that 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 for Japanese animation, better known as anime or manga. 


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

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

Honing talent

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

He receives orders even from famous people and corporate bodies. 

This is largely due to a simple sketch that he did of health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on the side of his cardboard coffee cup two years ago, which propelled him to fame. 

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

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

Luqman also won second place in a competition organised by the French embassy, while several of his drawings were exhibited at a shopping centre in the capital city in conjunction with autism awareness month. 

Even today, his desire to continue learning has never flagged. Sometimes, he watches videos on the internet in order to pick up new skills. He also reads up on drawing theories and practises the techniques that he finds in his books. 

"Drawing doesn't only depend on talent," he said. 

"You need to keep practising yourself. Keep learning and keep practising."