As the world celebrates Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence, the public is hungry for information about how the city-state rose from humble beginnings to become a global powerhouse. But the country’s story has not always been accessible.
To bridge this gap, NUS has launched a new history prize to encourage authors from different backgrounds to write about Singapore’s past. The first winner this year is archaeologist John Miksic, whose book Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800, won over 31 competing entries. The prize was mooted in April 2014 by NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow and historian Kishore Mahbubani in an opinion column published in the Straits Times. He said: “The famous American social scientist Benedict Anderson once said that nations are ‘imagined communities’, and it is a shared imagination of the past that is the critical glue holding societies together.”
The prize aims to widen the definition of what constitutes history by inviting writings from various perspectives on Singapore’s past, from both new and established writers. The panel that decided on the inaugural award comprised Prof Mahbubani, Associate Professor Ian Gordon of the NUS Department of History; Assistant Professor Seng Guo Quan, an historian and educator; and playwright Alfian Sa’at. They based their decision on the premise that “history matters to every citizen”.
NUS will award the prize at this year’s World Architecture Festival (WAFX) in November. Submissions can be non-fiction or fiction works from around the world, as long as they have clear historical themes about Singapore. In addition to the main prize, three honourable mentions will be awarded.
Meanwhile, the National Book Development Council of Singapore has unveiled the list of finalists for the 30th edition of the Singapore Literature Prize, which will be announced on Tuesday. The prize, founded in 1992, awards books published in Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. It is the only literary award in Singapore that recognises both fiction and poetry.
Britain’s Prince William is in Singapore this week for a four-day trip to host the annual Earthshot Prize awards, which recognise and scale up ideas for solving global environmental challenges. He will attend the ceremony on Tuesday at which winners in five categories will be presented with £1 million to help fund their projects.
He will also meet President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He is expected to take part in a United for Wildlife summit, attended by law enforcement agencies and conservation groups working to combat the illegal trade in wildlife products, estimated to be worth $20 billion annually. He will also try his hand at dragon boating, a popular sport in Singapore and elsewhere in the region. The prince has previously held the awards in London and Boston. His visit to Singapore is the third leg of his Asia tour. He has already visited Malaysia and Indonesia. He has met locals and heard their ideas for tackling climate change, environmental threats and resolving the refugee crisis in Myanmar.