Singapore Hawker Culture: Republic submits nomination for UNESCO inscription

National Heritage Board (NHB), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Federation of Merchants' Association, Singapore (FMAS) submitted the nomination to UNESCO.

Hawker Derrick Lee, 30, sells chicken rice in his stall at a hawker centre in Singapore. Reuters

The Republic, which has more than 100 hawker centres and over 80 per cent of the population visit them at least once a week, has nominated its hawker culture on Wednesday, March 27 for inscription as an "intangible cultural heritage of humanity" to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

On Thursday the official said told the media that the nomination was submitted by National Heritage Board (NHB), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Federation of Merchants' Association, Singapore (FMAS).

The three organisations said in a joint statement that "The submission of the nominated documents is a milestone in Singapore's UNESCO inscription journey to better recognise and protect our intangible cultural heritage."

It also added that the success of the nomination, which includes letters, photographs and videos demonstrating community support for the bid, "will demonstrate greater appreciation for our hawkers, and show our commitment as a nation to safeguard hawker culture for generations to come."

The nomination decision was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on National Day Rally 2018.

Those organizations clarified that by July 2019 the documents, which were submitted, will be available for the public viewing on the official website of UNESCO.

Those submitted photographs show Singapore based Indian Muslim hawker, who was preparing the biryani, including a Chinese hawker, who was photographed while giving a demonstration on chicken rice recipe, as well as a father and his children, who were enjoying the chendol dessert at the time the image was taken.

All the pictures were contributed by Singaporeans and entries to the #OurHawkerCulture photography contest.

A 10-minute long video was also submitted along with other documents to provide a better and deep understanding of the country's hawker culture.

As per the officials, the nomination will be evaluated by six UNESCO experts, who are qualified in several fields related to the intangible cultural heritage, as well as six other representatives of accredited non-governmental organisations.

It should be noted that the assigned experts and representatives will evaluate of Singapore's nomination based on five criteria. Such as,

  • How it meets UNESCO's definition of intangible cultural heritage
  • how existing and future safeguarding measures ensure the promotion, transmission and continued practice of the hawker culture

A decision on the nomination will be made by end-2020 and if successful, then it will join current 429 other cultures on the intangible cultural heritage of humanity list, which includes Indonesia's bamboo musical instrument angklung, China's shadow puppetry, Belgium's beer culture and many.

 hawker centres
People eat at a hawker centre in Singapore. Reuters