Singapore’s hawker culture nominated for UN’s Cultural Heritage list

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In Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech on Sunday night, August 19, he announced that Singapore’s cherished hawker culture is going to be nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The country is yet to be represented in this list, which includes such amazing global phenomena as flamenco dancing (Spain), batik (Indonesia), yoga (India) and Kabuki Theatre (Japan). The list was begun in 2008, and currently includes around 400 different representative elements that show diversity in global heritage.

The Prime Minister said that hawker centers are a unique aspect of Singapore’s identity and heritage, calling them “community dining centers” that have become a “cultural institution.” He also called them the “best cure for homesickness” for overseas Singaporeans, saying that “Every time we hold ‘Singapore Day’ in other cities, hawker food always attracts a large number of homesick Singaporeans.”

Furthermore, hawker centers underline the nation’s multicultural heritage, said Prime Minister Lee, noting that when the Singapore Botanic Gardens were included as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it was a moment for national pride.

Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiments, writing in a Facebook post, “Singapore’s hawker culture is an integral part of our daily lives, and a reflection of multicultural society. It is not just about the food. It is about our hawker centres being social and community spaces for people from all walks of life. It is also about our hawker food heritage, and the hardworking people behind the food – our hawkers.”

PM has just announced that Singapore will be nominating our hawker culture to be included in UNESCO’s representative…

Posted by Grace Fu on Sunday, 19 August 2018

She encouraged Singaporeans to support the endeavor and provided a link where people could go to show their support (https://www.oursgheritage.sg/). More than 2,000 people have already pledged their support.

In September, a committee from the private and public sectors will come together to gather a dossier on the hawker culture, which will be submitted to Unesco in March 2019.

Results as to whether Unesco will approve the hawker culture and other nominees to be part of the list will be revealed by the end of 2020.

Singapore’s hawker centers have gained many fans from around the world, including the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who was so impressed by them that he once suggested that hawker centers should be adopted in his native New York.