Singapore – After nearly three years since application, Singapore’s hawker culture has officially been added to the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
On Wednesday (Dec 16), a virtual conference comprised of a 24-member international panel unanimously accepted Singapore’s application.
According to a straitstimes.com report, it took about three minutes to approve the three-year application submitted by the National Heritage Board, the National Environment Agency and the Federation of Merchants’ Associations.
The committee deemed it unnecessary to debate the nomination at the 15th session of the intergovernmental board as Singapore’s application had met all the requirements.
Singapore’s hawker culture marks the first item on the intangible cultural heritage list. There are currently 463 entries in the list, including Japan’s washi craft-making (traditional hand-made paper), Spain’s wine horses and Malaysia’s Mak Yong theatre.
In 2015, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens was designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site, symbolizing its first entry to any Unesco list.
Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage website defines hawker culture in Singapore as “community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context that is present throughout Singapore.”
The centres serve as “‘community dining rooms’ where people from diverse backgrounds gather and share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner,” the post added.
“Evolved from street food culture, hawker centres have become markers of Singapore as a multicultural city-state, comprising Chinese, Malay, Indian and other cultures. Hawkers take inspiration from the confluence of these cultures, adapting dishes to local tastes and contexts.”
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Edwin Tong, in a pre-recorded video, provided remarks on the historic occasion shared across representatives from 117 states and non-governmental organizations.
“Singapore’s hawker culture is a source of pride for Singapore and all Singaporeans. 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,” said Mr Tong.
“I thank all our hawkers and Singaporeans for their overwhelming support of this nomination… We pledge to do our part to safeguard our intangible cultural heritage.”
Singapore will be required to submit a report to Unesco every six years highlighting efforts to safeguard and pass on hawker culture to future generations.
In a Facebook post after the decision, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took to Facebook to thank everyone involved for their efforts. “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,” said Mr Lee.