Singapore's hawker culture recommended by experts to be inscribed on UNESCO list

Chia Han Keong
·Editor
·3-min read
File photo: Yahoo News Singapore
A hawker centre in Singapore. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s bid to inscribe its hawker culture on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity received a significant boost on Monday (16 November), when a 12-member evaluation body recommended it to be put on the coveted list.

The evaluation body is appointed by the 24-member inter-governmental committee (IGC), which will make its final decision during an online meeting from 14 to 19 December.

While there have been instances in which a recommended cultural heritage was not given the nod by the committee, Yahoo News Singapore understands that the typical scenario is that a nomination that is recommended by the evaluation body will be approved.

Fulfilling all criteria, plus commendations

In making the recommendation, the expert panel assessed Singapore’s hawker culture to have fulfilled all the five criteria listed by the IGC:

  • whether it meets UNESCO’s definition of intangible cultural heritage;

  • whether the potential inscription increases visibility, awareness and dialogue of intangible cultural heritage;

  • whether existing and future safeguarding measures ensure the promotion and continued practice and transmission of hawker culture;

  • whether the nomination effort has involved the widespread participation of the community;

  • and whether hawker culture is included Singapore’s own intangible cultural heritage inventory.

Furthermore, the evaluation body 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”.

25 to be recommended for inscription in December

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.

Chang Hwee Nee, chief executive officer of the National Heritage Board, said the evaluation body’s recommendation is an affirmation by international experts.

“Comprising a unique combination of food, space and community, hawker culture has evolved into a microcosm of our multicultural society, and is an integral part of our living heritage. It provides a sense of identity and continuity in Singapore, over generations and through urbanisation and development,” she said in a media release on Tuesday.

“We have seen overwhelming support from Singaporeans since the announcement of Singapore’s nomination was made in August 2018. We hope the successful inscription of hawker culture would further raise awareness and appreciation among Singaporeans of the importance of intangible cultural heritage in our daily lives, and continue to promote dialogues among our communities.

“With the recommendation, we hope to hear good news during the IGC meeting in December.”

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