Singapore’s hawker culture is now officially inscribed on UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The inscription was announced during the 15th session Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on Wednesday (16 Dec) after a 24-member international committee unanimously accepted the application submitted by Singapore.
It was reported by The Straits Times that the committee decided that there was no need for debate on the nomination, given that Singapore’s application has fulfilled all criteria.
As stated in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural’s website, “community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context is present throughout Singapore” in relation to the country’s hawker culture.
“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.”
It also highlighted that the hawker centres in Singapore – a social place that embraces people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds – play a crucial role in enhancing community interactions and strengthening the social fabric.
Following the announcement, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong thanked the committee for its endorsement of the inscription. He also thanked the hawkers and fellow Singaporeans for their overwhelming support in this nomination.
Delivering his remark in a video testimony, Mr Tong said, “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.”
The inscription, he said, reminds Singaporeans of the values of “resilience, adaptability and unity”, especially during this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” Mr Tong added.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also took to his Facebook to thank the people who have “worked very hard” for the country’s recognition.
“Thank you all – it has been a long but fruitful journey,” Mr Lee wrote.
“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 added.
Singapore first announced its intention to nominate its hawker culture on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list during the National Day Rally back in 2018.
Despite Singapore Botanic Gardens being affirmed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the country’s hawker culture will be the first submission that the country has made in the category of intangible cultural heritage.
Netizens thank hawkers’ hard work while urging Govt to increase support to the hawkers
Many of them, including the Progress Singapore Party (PSP)’s member Jeffrey Khoo, congratulated all the hawkers while applauding their hard work and commitment which made the recognition possible.
Besides the congratulatory remarks and praises, a handful of netizens voiced concern over the preservation of the hawker culture as there are “many issues have yet to be addressed”, such as the increase of food prices, high rental cost, low income with long working hours of a hawker, cleanliness, hawker food being cooked by “foreign workers” instead of local Singaporeans, and the ageing of hawker stall owner.
With the “heritage brand”, they hoped that the Government will help to retain the hawker culture by increasing its support to the hawkers.
One commenter said that the Government should reward the “very people” who made the recognition possible by granting them free rental for three months.
With the prestigious inscription in the books, a few netizens hinted that Singaporeans ought to be prepared for an increase in hawker food price.