The Singapore Prize – An Honour For Individuals And Organisations

A Singapore prize is an award given by a country to recognise individuals and organisations that have made contributions in a particular field. The awards are often accompanied by a significant financial reward. Typically, the winners are required to present a lecture as part of the award ceremony.

The inaugural winner of the NUS Singapore History Prize, the first book on the subject to be awarded in the city state, was Professor John Miksic for his work, Singapore and The Silk Road Of The Sea, 1300 – 1800. His book laid the foundation for a fundamental reinterpretation of the story of Singapore, based on new research into historical documents and oral histories.

This year, the prize has been broadened to include books with a personal slant, to move away from the traditional view of history as merely a record of the achievements of big movers and shakers. The shortlist includes academic tomes like Seven Hundred Years: A History Of Singapore (2019) by Kwa Chong Guan, Tan Tai Yong, Peter Borschberg and Derek Heng as well as novels such as Kamaladevi Aravindan’s Sembawang (2020).

Also among the shortlisted authors was Jeremy Tiang for his book State Of Emergency (2017), which follows an extended family through leftist political movements and detentions in the 1950s. Ms Hidayah spent five years putting the book together, interviewing residents in Gedung Kuning, which is situated near the old Istana Kampong Glam, and found that there was much to be learnt from their stories.

The prize has been lauded by many for its emphasis on the value of community heritage. It also encourages the participation of ordinary citizens in research and aims to reposition history as an important element in civic life. A panel of judges chaired by NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow Kishore Mahbubani has said that the prize reflects a growing understanding of how communities are held together by a shared imagination, and that a knowledge of history is an important ingredient for this.

Other notable winners of the 2021 prize included a team from a suicide-prevention agency that was recognised for its branding efforts, and a private company that was honoured for its wastewater-based epidemiology work during the pandemic. The winning projects will be honoured at the 2023 WAFX trade show in Shanghai. The winners will receive a bespoke exhibition booth and free admission for four members of their design team.

Prince William was on hand to present the prizes at the gala dinner, and even donned a vintage suit from the brand that makes sustainable clothing. Other celebrities at the event — including actor Yen and actress Mbatha — wore outfits from other sustainable brands. The glitzy ceremony was held at the Theatre at MediaCorp, and featured performances by the bands One Republic and Bastille. The ceremony was also a platform to showcase the work of non-governmental organisations in the region, including Earthshot, an initiative that brings together law enforcement agencies, environmentalists and corporate leaders to combat wildlife trafficking.

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