“I work as a lawyer for Natives (indigenous people). We try to assist natives in claiming the land that they’ve been living on for generations. These include the Iban, Kadazan Dusun, and others who have been in this land for so long.

“I work as a lawyer for Natives (indigenous people). We try to assist natives in claiming the land that they’ve been living on for generations. These include the Iban, Kadazan Dusun, and others who have been in this land for so long.

They don’t have a land title, so when the state eliminates the ‘geran’ (land grant) and give it to a timber company who may not have a title or geran but usually has a license to fell timber, that’s when the conflict starts. When a company comes in, saying they have the ‘geran’, the natives fight back, saying ‘we have been here for generations, why are you taking our land?’.

Normally when they claim lands, there are 2 parts to it.

The first one is for their houses, the clearings and their gardens, and the others are reserved for fishing, hunting, and foraging.

Then in 2016, the Federal Court decided that the natives cannot claim areas where they forage for food and go hunting.

Effectively, that meant many natives could no longer have a source of livelihood, especially if you are Orang Penan.

They are a nomadic people who move around every few years to new locations and survive by hunting food in the jungle. Some of them work. Younger generations work in the city, but for the elders, they are in the longhouse and tend to the crops and raise farm animals.

Us people living in KL are aware of our rights, we are more suburban and more individualistic, but the Orang Asli are more communal, more welcoming and forgetful of the consensus of the group to build anything.

So when it comes to the court, which wants more details on things, the Orang Asli are not as meticulous.

It’s difficult to reach their kampungs (villages), by plane or 4×4 cars, and logistics is an issue.

But we need to bring more awareness to them. They need someone to tell them what are their rights and to speak about their rights.

They must be willing to accept change – I am but just a small Chinese girl trying to help”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

“I have been a refugee my whole life.”

“I have been a refugee my whole life.

My parents fled to Iran when Russia attacked Afghanistan. My siblings and I were all born in Iran. In 2004, we moved back to Afghanistan. For about 10 years, I lived in Afghanistan; I was studying Spanish Literature at Cavard University. In 2013, I had to move to Malaysia because of the war that happened in my home country.

As a refugee, I face many challenges because I don’t have any rights. I always live in fear and I can’t ask the government for help because I don’t exist. But I still need to make a living. I need to eat. I do work but we are underpaid. Sometimes, some bosses don’t want to pay me in the end because I don’t have any documents. And I can’t do anything about it.

I met many refugees who came to tell me that they have worked for their bosses for more than a few months, and yet are not getting paid. Sometimes they get injured during work and they don’t have insurance to cover it. They have to pay their own medical bills, and healthcare services are expensive.

Sometimes I get tired but I know that I’m not living for myself. I am also living for my parents and siblings. I need to be alive to take care of the people in my life. That is why I am still here. But at least we are trying. We are trying our best and when our applications are not successful, we still keep trying.

My only plan now is to wait for UNHCR to get me resettled to a place where I can have my proper documentation, get health insurance and study in a university.

I want to thank all the Malaysians I have met. They don’t care where you are from and they are very kind and friendly. I want to also say that there is a large group of refugees living in Malaysia. They need help and support because they are living in a very bad condition.

27 years now, I’m still a refugee, I’m already getting used to it.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Victor Raj and Samantha Siow
Edited by Sydrah M

My name is Rachel and I’m a Chin refugee from Myanmar. I came to Malaysia with just my sister and we were looked after by our aunt on our way here. It took us 7 days to reach here as we travelled by car, by boat and on foot. That was 9 years ago. I was only 6 and my sister was 7 years old. The one thing I miss about Myanmar is this sour fruit called saimitu, which you can only find in that country.

My name is Rachel and I’m a Chin refugee from Myanmar. I came to Malaysia with just my sister and we were looked after by our aunt on our way here. It took us 7 days to reach here as we travelled by car, by boat and on foot. That was 9 years ago. I was only 6 and my sister was 7 years old. The one thing I miss about Myanmar is this sour fruit called saimitu, which you can only find in that country.

My most memorable moment in Malaysia was the time we performed at a concert organised by the CSO (Chin Students Organisation). We did our cultural dance and we also danced to K-Pop music. We had a fashion show, too, where we dressed up in our traditional dress.

In this coming Hands of Hope musical, I play a character who’s also named Rachel. She’s very kind and always helps people in need. She’s quite different from who I am in real life because I’m very rude (laughs).

It’s sad that I was told I can’t go to a local school here in Malaysia. I really enjoy learning Math and I want to keep learning it. My ambition is to become a Math teacher one day, as I’d like to share my knowledge and educate others.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Samantha Siow and Aiman Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah M

*Hands of Hope Charity Musical Theatre 2019 aims to raise awareness about the humanitarian issues happening in Malaysia. This musical theatre shares the journey of two refugee brothers from Chin to Malaysia and also the struggles that they face when they are in Malaysia. For more information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/2432726603440770/

 

“I used to dress like a tomboy. All black and blue, baggy pants and graphic t-shirts, looking like a plumber. I was into the whole ‘skater’ fashion.”

“I used to dress like a tomboy. All black and blue, baggy pants and graphic t-shirts, looking like a plumber. I was into the whole ‘skater’ fashion.⁣

After a while, I was told to be more aware of my presentation to the world. I felt a bit invisible too. Some people dress like that to be invisible. ⁣

It got difficult for people to acknowledge you. I have to say that, people who don’t put much effort into dressing nicely is sending a message across, that you are not bothered by how you look. ⁣

Its not that you cannot afford the look, you have to be presentable in a certain manner to show that you are serious, that you are to be noticed, and to be taken into account and be visible. ⁣

And lately I’ve been embracing my feminity, and thinking how I should present myself in a better, more thoughtful and professional way to the world. Wearing skirts was the hardest thing for me. Friends always commented on how I would always sit with my legs wide open. But it’s getting better now, I’m actually enjoying it. ⁣

Beauty is in the eyes of the creator, not the beholder. If thats what you want to show, then so be it. ⁣

God created us, God thinks we are beautiful. I just made a more conscious decision on how I want to present myself to the world.

– Follow us @thehumansofkl on Instagram for more human stories!

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

 

“I got this ring when I was 20. It’s a family tradition – when one of us turns 21, my mom would give us a piece of jewellery to mark adulthood.”

“I got this ring when I was 20. It’s a family tradition – when one of us turns 21, my mom would give us a piece of jewellery to mark adulthood.

Both my brothers received theirs when they reached 21, but there is no real reason why I got my ring early. My mom had simply taken it out of the box and did not want to forget where she put it, so she gave it to me while I was still 20. It wasn’t because I became an adult earlier!

Actually, most people think I’m in a relationship when they see the ring, but to be honest, the ring finger is the only finger where it fits!

I’m not sure why we have this tradition and I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing either. In Chinese culture, it’s usually a big deal when someone turns 21. When I have my own kids, I won’t give them this ring, because it’s the only one that I have. However, I might pass down something else of mine to keep the tradition going.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur
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This story was produced as part of the Storytelling Workshop with Youth Beyond Boundaries – YBB. A big thank you to @mesmarazin and @soonzhengfai for the story!

After 7 years working in IT, like what seemed an eternity, I had no passion for it and didn’t motivate me. I wasn’t excited to wake up in the morning to go to work and I had no desire to learn new things and improve myself.

“After 7 years working in IT, like what seemed an eternity, I had no passion for it and didn’t motivate me. I wasn’t excited to wake up in the morning to go to work and I had no desire to learn new things and improve myself. In IT it’s all rules and procedures, there’s no room for creativity.

So I took a pay cut to become a writer. Writing is something that I liked. Also, I miss using the right side of my brain (creativity). Throughout my life, my passion has always been football, movies, and writing.

I’m too old for sports now, not good looking enough to be an actor, but I can write.

When the boss asked me how serious I am with this career change, I replied, “I’m taking a pay cut to have this job, leaving my old comfort zone. How much more serious can I be?

I told him that if I improve my writing and I deserve it, then give me a raise.

After 4 months on the job, I got promoted to Senior Writer. So far the job hasn’t been a bed of roses, but I’m much happier now”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

“Even though I was a ‘third culture kid’ – raised everywhere except Malaysia, I’d call myself a Malaysian first.

“Even though I was a ‘third culture kid’ – raised everywhere except Malaysia, I’d call myself a Malaysian first. I was also the black sheep of the family, so of course, my family were not happy when I told them I would change jobs from being a producer, to be a standup comedian.

I’m Papi Zak, I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for about 10 years now. If you don’t know what stand up comedy is, it’s when a person stands up in front of a group of people, and share their personal life stories, views and opinions.

The difference between the guy speaking on the stage, and the guy sitting as the audience – is that this person can make a person laugh by telling jokes (he better!).

I studied in the US, so my first exposure to stand-up comedy was when I watched Eddie Murphy’s live comedy show – he is my inspiration.

I always knew him as an actor, but when I saw him on stage, he was such a great comedian and made the whole ninety minutes of the show feel like it passed by in minutes. The way he engages with the audience, the way the audience was wrapped around his stories – that amazed me.

I was also shocked when I realized there’s a stand-up comedy scene in Malaysia. I mean, Harith Iskandar is actually a standup comedian, and in 2013 when I met him, he recommended me to give it a try by performing at an Open Mic show.

And stand-up comedy is the hardest thing to do in the world. It was never about being famous, it was that feeling, that people really want to hear of my stories.

When people laugh at my jokes, it’s the most gratifying feeling ever. It’s like a drug, and you want to keep that laugh going and going. Stand up comedy helped me build my confidence.

And biasalah, my family thought stand-up comedy as my full-time job was a joke. They were the traditional Asian parents, so when I changed to work in comedy, from being in TV production and as a radio host, they weren’t happy either.

For them, the importance of my job was stability. But now that I have more gigs to do, they’re more okay.

I’m not as famous as Harith Iskandar or as big as Jen Han, but I’ve come to understand comedy is what you make of it. No matter how poor or rich you are, as long as people know that you’re genuine, they’ll buy into it.

And let me tell you – it is the greatest feeling in the world when the audience laughs at, and with you”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Check out Papi Zak‘s page for his latest shows!

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

“My journey in music started with my mother and my church.”

My journey in music started with my mother and my church. My mother taught my first few guitar chords and my church gave me the exposure to try my hand at different instruments and to see how a band functions. In fact, some of my first songs ever written were composed for church camp.

Hello, I am Sam Lopez and I am the lead singer of Lost Spaces, a band I found when I first moved to Kuala Lumpur from Ipoh to pursue my passion for music.

When I first arrived, my thought was, how do I get my band started? Coincidentally, my first band was made of my very own family, including my brother and my cousins.

As time went on, some band members ventured out to try other different things but I continued to stick with my music dream.

Lost Spaces was born after I attended my very first music festival in Singapore.

Seeing bands like 1975 and The Internet perform live transported me to a whole different space and hence the idea and concept behind Lost Spaces came to life.

The experiences that I have had growing up and in the present time, shape a lot of the songs I write today. My music has moved far away from the religious writing that I did as a child, as sometimes religious structures inhibit creativity.

Today our songs are all about people and observations of daily life. They are a commentary of life as we see it from topics like dating, love, friendship, acceptance and a personal struggle to fit in that most millennials go through. Although most of our music is fun and upbeat, lyrically there is always a deeper underlying message.

Our music also resonates with artists like me, who tend to live under the pressure of acceptance. What if people don’t enjoy our music? What if we have not met expectations? Sometimes we also have to deal with negative comments and criticism.

My only defence mechanism at times like these is to tell myself that we are yet to display our full body of work and this is just a part of what we do.

Of course, the journey thus far has not been an easy one. I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience, but at the same time I have lost out on friendships, relationships and financial stability.

Every month, I need to pump about 50-60% of my income to sustain my art. This means strict budgets, cutting down on socialising and thinking about everything that can help me to scale down my spending.

At present, along with being a singer-songwriter for Lost Spaces I also have a 9 to 5 job in marketing with Breaking Music Sdn Bhd, the independent record label that represents Lost Spaces.

This means less time to work on my art, but in the longer run, I’m banking on this strategy to help me create a sustainable outlet for my music.

But there is solace in knowing that things are working out for Lost Spaces. This year we will be performing for the very first time at Good Vibes Festival along with the release of a new album. We also have plans to look for an opportunity overseas and doing a music tour if possible.

All artists like me harbour the hope that one day we will have better infrastructure in Malaysia to take our art forward. Although I believe that a lot of that will come when our economy starts to improve and audiences are ready to pay for art.

From certain conversations, some working young adults today find it difficult to fork up RM20 for a show in the current economic scenario where they are unable to make sufficient savings once they have paid their loans, rent, food and utilities. This sadly is the harsh reality.

At the end of the day, I personally believe it is important, to be honest with your intention of the art you create and base your plans around that and hopefully, things will work out just fine for you.

That being said, I do have plans for myself and Lost Spaces and I’m banking on these to help us take our music forward”.

________________________________________________

Samuel Lopez is the lead singer of the band lost spaces. They will be performing at Urbanscapes which is running from 16 – 24 November! Get your tickets at https://www.urbanscapes.com.my/

And do check out their Spotify at https://open.spotify.com/artist/387YZVajWRq3ZPiCxiX07b?si=ECXqtIw4QE2V0wDn_QxlOA

Photostory by Nafisa Dahodwala and Yap Sue Jiun
Edited by Mushamir Mustafa

“Batches after batches, more and more people left the company. I was in one of the later batches to get the letter and was told to pack up and leave on the very same day.”

“Batches after batches, more and more people left the company. I was in one of the later batches to get the letter and was told to pack up and leave on the very same day.

I was an engineer in the oil and gas sector. In late 2014, a nightmare hit the oil and gas industry, following the prolonged slump in crude oil prices.

One day when I went to the IT department, to my surprise, it was almost empty. I asked one of them what happened, and he replied ‘retrenchment’.

From that day onwards, I was fully aware that something was going on in the company.
There were little projects to be tendered and there wasn’t any work to do during that period. Time passed. The downsizing had finally started with the entire contract workers, and with most of them gone, the organization had no choice but to finally lay their hands on the permanent staff.

I spent one year looking for jobs in different industries but had a tough time securing one because the experiences that I had were from a completely different sector. I managed to find a job in the M&E (Mechanical & Electrical) sector but I did not like what I was doing.

The most important thing is that I believe in the market and marketplace will determine the values that you provide, and therefore that will dictate how much is your earning power. And the best part is that your income is limited by any company – you can earn more as long as you can provide more. This was the one and only thing that I believed in before making my move to tender my resignation one year later to pursue my own dream.

I have a mentor that I adore and respect. He teaches me the A-Zs of the true purpose of life. He mentioned that life is like a game – from the day you were born, like it or not, are already in the game of life. Like all games, this game of life has specific rules to play by. If you play it correctly, it is competitive and fun. While many people sit at the sidelines and marvel at how others are playing, we can win this game by being a player ourselves.

From this, I decided to take charge of my own life.

I am now working as an equity and currency trader. Ever since then I follow my own path, the dedication, perseverance and passion have automatically imprinted into my daily life. Being able to work tirelessly day and night, and pushing myself to the limit, it is more than a job, something that I will definitely hold on to in the future.

I wholeheartedly believe that when one door closes, another opens; that every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.

Imagine, there are 2 people, Jeff and Brandon. Jeff places a very high value on freedom and fun and Brandon places a very high value on security and comfort. Do you think that they behave very differently and make very different choices? Of course, they would – in careers, cars, vacations – all would be totally different.

The ways you prioritize your values affect how your mind makes decisions and the way you behave.

In my case, I have gone through the retrenchment period and because of this, the values of security and comfort that I believed in the past are no longer in my dictionary.

This is a quote I love – ‘It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward’. That is how a winner is created.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Ariya Ling
Edited by Mushamir Mustafa

“I knew a 19-year-old girl who was picked by the police for possession of cocaine.”

“I knew a 19-year-old girl who was picked by the police for possession of cocaine. There was 1kg of it. She was pregnant at that time. She was supposed to receive a package from a friend from West Malaysia. She had no idea what was inside. The police intercepted it, brought the package to her, and asked if this was hers. She said yes, and she got caught. At the police station, when the package was finally opened, it was only then that she realised she was a drug mule. Apparently, it was sent by someone she knew from Facebook.

As a lawyer, we went with her to court where she was charged, and that was when we remembered that drugs, equals death. She lost it and started crying on the spot.

As lawyers, we try not to show much emotion. We cannot even give a tissue when they are crying, we have to be cold (professional). It was difficult for me. It made me realize that the work that we do, impact people’s lives.

The court couldn’t prove the package was hers. It wasn’t in her custody and possession. It was sent to her. I realized jangan main-main (don’t play around) when it comes to being a lawyer.

I learnt that you are important, no matter where you are in life or what life has thrown at you.

You will impact somebody else in whatever manner, shape or form. How you live your life will impact someone else’s.

Live it well, live it meaningfully.

Even if it is from your trusted friend – always check what’s in the package”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa