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Singapore hawker culture listed as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage

Singapore hawker culture listed as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage

People eat at a hawker centre in Singapore on Jun 19, 2020, as restrictions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are eased. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: It’s official - Singapore hawker culture is now on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, joining the likes of French cuisine, Thai massage and yoga.

The listing - a first for Singapore - was confirmed at the 15th session Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Paris this week.

The inscription on Wednesday (Dec 16) comes two years after the intention to nominate hawker culture for the UNESCO list was announced at the 2018 National Day Rally. The nomination documents were submitted to UNESCO in March last year.

READ: Singapore hawker culture a step closer to being on UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list

Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Edwin Tong thanked all hawkers and Singaporeans for their "overwhelming support" of the nomination of hawker culture to the UNESCO list in a pre-recorded speech after the inscription.

"Singapore's hawker culture is a source of pride for Singapore and all Singaporeans. It reflects our living heritage and multiculturalism," said Mr Tong.

"It is an integral part of the daily lives of everyone in Singapore, regardless of age, race or background."

Mr Tong added that the inscription reminds Singaporeans of the values of "resilience, adaptability and unity".

"We pledge to do our part to safeguard our intangible cultural heritage, as well as to contribute to the dialogue and collaboration in line with the spirit of the convention," he added, referring to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which Singapore ratified in 2018.

READ: Does hawker culture have a future in Singapore? Yes, but perhaps not as we know it​​​​​​​

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post that went up soon after the announcement that Singaporeans should celebrate by ordering their favourite hawker dish this week.

"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," he wrote.

Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, president of the Federation of Merchants’ Associations (FMAS) called the recognition of hawker culture "great news for all Singaporeans".

"For our hawkers, it is a recognition of their dedication to perfecting their craft and their contribution to Singapore’s rich food heritage," he said.

READ: With UNESCO listing in sight, will new breed of ‘hawkerpreneurs’ rejuvenate or erode hawker culture?

To celebrate the successful inscription, the SG HawkerFest will be held from Dec 26 to Jan 11 next year. 

There will be an online treasure hunt through a web application, and participants can also share ideas on the infrastructure and features that they hope to see in hawker centres of the future.

Participants will be awarded virtual badges for completed quizzes that can be exchanged for dining vouchers redeemable at 29 hawker centres islandwide.

There are more than 460 items on the representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity and dozens more are being added this year.

The UNESCO session to consider the other nominations is ongoing and will continue for the rest of the week.

The UN body says that the representative list recognises the diverse cultural practices and expressions of humanity, and seeks to raise awareness of their importance.

Source: CNA/hm

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