Eating is a national pastime in Singapore – no doubt about that.
Hawker centres, with their variety of affordable dishes well-loved by Singaporeans from all walks of life, have become an integral part of the nation's culture and heritage.
As such, Singapore will be nominating Hawker Culture for the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The decision to do so was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on August 19, 2018. He had spoke about hawker centres being a unique part of Singapore’s society, heritage and identity.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu had earlier in March shared that Singapore is looking at a possible listing of an intangible cultural heritage element on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The chosen element, she stressed, has to be one that resonates with all Singaporeans, and reflects Singapore’s multicultural heritage to the world.
A poll was conducted earlier this year as part of a five-year master plan that maps out strategies and initiatives for the future of Singapore’s heritage. “Food Heritage” came up top, as the most important aspect of Singapore’s intangible cultural heritage among more than 3,000 respondents.
“Hawker centres and hawker food have grown to become an integral part of the Singaporean identity, and is a reflection of our multi-cultural society," said Ms Chang Hwee Nee, Chief Executive Officer of the National Heritage Board (NHB). "Just as how our hawker centres bring people together through our shared love for food, I believe this nomination will help bond Singaporeans through the celebration of our living heritage, and make us feel even prouder to be Singaporean. Through the bid, we hope to put Singapore’s Hawker Culture on the world stage, thus increasing recognition of its importance, and ensuring its sustainability for the future."
Singapore’s hawker culture constitutes not just the hawker centres and the wide variety of food they offer, – but also their role as vibrant social and community spaces, serving as our “community dining rooms”. The hawkers and their repertoire of skills are also central to keeping the hawker culture sustainable.