Singapore aims to inscribe Hawker Culture as the nation’s Intangible Cultural Heritage element on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity in 2020. To meet this target, Singapore will have to submit the nomination dossier to UNESCO by March 2019.
The dossier will first be evaluated by a panel of experts appointed by UNESCO and then assessed by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee which comprises representatives from different countries. The evaluation process will take place over a period of one year and nine months, and the results will be announced in November or December 2020.
For Singapore’s nomination of Hawker Culture to be successful, it needs to meet the criteria set out by UNESCO. For instance, the nominated element must conform to UNESCO’s ICH definition; it must be included in Singapore’s ICH inventory; there must be sufficient safeguarding measures for the element; and there must be strong community support for the element.
Nominating Hawker Culture of Singapore
The choice of nominating Hawker Culture as Singapore’s element on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage was determined after a series of public engagement efforts with Singaporeans.
Earlier this year, the National Heritage Board (NHB) conducted a public poll which attracted more than 3,000 respondents, and “Food Heritage” was highlighted as the most important aspect of Singapore’s intangible cultural heritage.
Between April to July 2018, a series of focus group discussions were also conducted with academics, heritage experts, youths, cultural practitioners and members of the public. Hawker Culture emerged as a firm favourite among the participants who indicated their support for it to be nominated for UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Many participants shared about the importance of Hawker Culture to Singaporeans, and how the multicultural dishes and hawker centres form an important part of our daily lives.
Goals of Nomination
Through the nomination of hawker culture, we hope to:
- Contribute to diverse cultures of the world, and for Singapore’s cultural heritage to be recognised with the many cultural practices recognised by UNESCO.
- Encourage greater appreciation for our hawkers, and the important role our hawker centres play as part of our community and neighbourhoods
- Ensure that our hawker culture will continue into the future, so that our future generations can continue to enjoy the food passed down from our forefathers
What is the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage?
The UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage comprises the diverse cultural practices and expressions of humanity and seeks to raise awareness of the importance of such practices and expressions as well as give due recognition to the practices and expressions of communities worldwide. The list contains a total of 399 ICH elements as of 2017.
Some of the ICH elements on the UNESCO Representative List include Gastronomic Meal of the French (France, 2010), Indonesian Angklung (Indonesia, 2010), Chinese Shadow Puppetry (China, 2011), Kimjang (Korea, 2013), Bagpipe Culture (Slovakia, 2015), Yoga (India, 2016), Washoku (Japan, 2013), and Mak Yong theatre (Malaysia, 2008).
Read on more to find out NHB’s efforts in promoting and preserving Intangible Cultural Heritage, along with details on the 2003 UNESCO Convention and UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.