Singapore's hawker culture gets the nod to be included on UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list

Chia Han Keong
·Editor
·2-min read

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s hawker culture was officially approved on Wednesday (16 December) to be inscribed into UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

The 24-member inter-governmental committee (IGC) made its decision during an online meeting, following a recommendation from a 12-member evaluation body last month.

“Singapore is tremendously honoured to have our hawker culture as our very first inscription on the UNESCO representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” said Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, in a video shown at the meeting after Singapore got the committee’s approval.

(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

“Hawker culture is a source of pride for Singapore. It reflects our living heritage and multiculturalism and is an integral part of the daily lives of everyone in Singapore, regardless of age, race, or background.

“The journey doesn’t end here. We will continue to recognise and celebrate the knowledge and cultural practices of the hawker trade, and ensure that future generations of Singaporeans can continue to appreciate, enjoy and cherish our hawker culture.”

Shortly after the announcement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commended efforts to get Singapore’s hawker culture on UNESCO’s list.

“Many have worked very hard to get our hawker culture inscribed on that list. Thank you all – it has been a long but fruitful journey,” he added. “The biggest thanks must go to the generations of hawkers for nourishing a nation’s stomach and spirits. This recognition would not have come without their sweat, toil and dedication to their profession.”

The expert panel had assessed Singapore’s hawker culture to have fulfilled all the criteria listed by the IGC. Furthermore, it commended Singapore for nominating a cultural heritage element that is thriving in a highly urbanised and culturally diverse environment, as well as for developing safeguarding measures that effectively foster dialogue, creativity and sustainability of hawker culture.

It also commended the Republic for devising creative ways to encourage the community to participate in the nomination process from the outset.

The nomination was also cited as a positive example for its “celebration of intangible cultural heritage, diversity, dialogue and sustainability”.

There were 42 submissions in this year's bid for inclusion into UNESCO’s list. These include mechanical watchmaking by Switzerland and France, Budima dance by Zambia and tree beekeeping culture by Poland and Belarus.

Among these, 25 were recommended to be inscribed on the official intangible cultural heritage of humanity list, including Singapore's bid. There are currently 463 items in UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

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