17 Jan 2016 — Clad in black, ashes on the forehead, carrying offering wrapped in a piece of cloth and walking barefoot from several temples around George Town, devotees of Ayyappa in Penang take part in an annual worship every January 14. The deity is mainly worshipped in Kerala, south India. The number of pilgrims here reaches thousands and their final destination is the Ayyappa temple in the Penang Botanical Garden. Before the big day, pilgrims observe a 60-day penance during which they abstain from shaving, sexual intercourse and a vegetarian diet.
19 Dec 2015 — Kuda kepang and barongan are the two popular dances among the Javanese in Johor. These two folk dances were brought in to Johor by Java migrants centuries ago and have spread among the Malays since then. The two dances have strong elements of trance and totemic worship and are performed at weddings and other cultural events. They are also popular Indonesia and Singapore. Kuda kepang consists of nine dancers or ‘horsemen’ who ride woven bamboo-made and colourful horses. When performing, the dancers often go into a trance. While in a trance, the dancers display unusual powers, such as peeling coconut husks with just the teeth and eating glass. Barongan, on the other hand, depicts the dance of a tiger and a peacock. The dance grew out of the legend of a tiger seeing a peacock spreading its train and shocked, peacock jumps onto the tiger’s back. The two dance together and when an escort of a princess spots them, he joins in. The dance harks back to prophet Sulaiman’s time when animals could speak. Johor folk have preserved both dance forms with the younger generation taking over the traditions, such as Kumpulan Barongan dan Kuda Kepang Warisan Gemilang Parit Bugis in Batu Pahat. The Malaysian Insider photographer Nazir Sufari spent some time with the group and caught its members at ‘play’.
30 Nov 2015 — The needle-and-syringe-exchange programme is the cornerstone of the Malaysian government-initiated harm-reduction strategy to minimise the risk of HIV transmission among drug users. Introduced in 2006, despite public opposition and restrictive legal stance against drug offences, the programme has benefited more than 83,000 drug users and improved their access to clean needles and syringes, HIV testing and treatment in addition to other life-saving healthcare services. The harm-reduction strategy has also halved new HIV infections among people who inject drugs in the past decade, from 3,127 cases in 2006 to 680 last year. The Malaysian Insider through freelance photojournalist Ahmad Yusni visits the Malaysian-Thai border town of Bukit Bunga, Tanah Merah, Kelantan, as demarcated by the narrow Sungai Golok. There, a needle and syringe exchange programme, run by the Kelantan Patient Intermediary Association (SAHABAT), a partner organisation of the Malaysian AIDS Council, serves as many as 30 people who inject drugs from both sides of the border daily.
10 Nov 2015 — For centuries, the Seletar community, also known as "Orang Laut" or sea people, lived in the islands near Singapore and Johor. The community, recognised as Orang Asli, now mostly live in boat houses in the coastal regions of southern Johor. But rapid development in Johor means their settlements are increasingly being encroached, forcing the community to rethink their lifestyle. The Malaysian Insider's Nazir Sufari recently spent time in several Seletar villages.
30 Oct 2015 — On August 23, 2015, seven Orang Asli children went missing from their school hostel in Pos Tohoi near Gua Musang, Kelantan. Many weeks later, four bodies were found, and identified to be those of Ika Ayel, 9, Haikal Yaacob, 8, Linda Rosli, 8 and Juvina David, 7. The Malaysian Insider's Najjua Zulkefli captures the outpouring of grief as relatives and villagers join the bereaved family members in the funeral at Kampung Penad, in the interiors of Gua Musang, after the bodies were brought from the hospital mortuary.
27 Oct 2015 — On first nine days of Ashvin, the seventh month in the Hindu calendar, Hindus celebrate ‘Sharad Navratri’ – the most popular of five Navratri festivals in a year. The festival, which fell on October 13 and ended on October 22 this year, is dedicated to Durga, the divine mother and goddess of victory of good over evil. For nine days, Hindus worship her nine avatars – Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. Prayers are offered by devotees seeking blessings from the goddess. Some devotees fast and others follow a vegetarian diet. In Penang, Hindus celebrate the end of the festival with an annual chariot procession, where the statue of Durga is brought out of the Sri Kunj Bihari Mandir on Jalan Penang and placed on a chariot. The statue travels the streets of the Unesco World Heritage City.
11 Oct 2015 — The Spartan Race is a series of obstacles of varying distance and difficulty, ranging from 4.8km to marathon distances. They are held in the United States and franchised in 14 countries. The series includes the Spartan Sprint (more than 4.8km of obstacle racing), Super Spartan (more than 13km), the Spartan Beast (more than 19km), and the Ultra Beast (more than 42km and one of two marathon obstacle courses along with Mudderthon). ESPN describes the Spartan Race as ‘a true test of will’. The inaugural Reebok Spartan Race got off to a great start yesterday with more than 10,000 people taking part in the two-day event at Setia Alam, Selangor, in conjunction with the inaugural National Sports Day. The first challenge was the Spartan sprint, which gave people a taste of the 6km course with more than 25 obstacles along the way.
03 Oct 2015 — Apart from its blue skies, white sandy beaches, vivid green paddy fields and volcanos, the Balinese inherited and kept cultural practices from their past generations, which included cockfighting. However, cockfighting is illegal in Indonesia. The only exception is when a cockfight takes place for religious purposes. The roosters are trained for fight and Balinese men spent a lot of time to ensure their fighters come out tops. The losing bird either dies in the ring or gets slashed to death after the fight. Outside the ring, betting with money are common.
16 Sep 2015 — Tens of thousands of people in red shirts gathered in Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2015 in a show of support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is under pressure to resign in the wake of revelations that billions of dollars had been deposited into his personal accounts. The rally, organised by a martial arts group and backed by pro-government bodies, was held as Malaysia celebrated the 52nd anniversary of its formation as a federation. Many have condemned the rally for its racial slurs but leaders from the ruling Umno have openly backed the protest.