Singapore Prize Shortlists Revealed

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HARARE — Twenty-nine local businesses, including healthcare specialist StarMed Specialist Centre and co-living operator Coliwoo, were crowned winners at the 21st Singapore Prestige Brand Awards (SPBA) on Wednesday evening. The award ceremony was held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. It was hosted by Minister for Trade and Industry, Gan Kim Yong.

Several of the winning brands have been in business for less than eight years. This is a sign that the award is not just for established enterprises, but also emerging ones with potential for growth and success.

The award also recognises not-for-profit organisations that are building a stronger, more sustainable community. One of the winners was suicide-prevention agency Samaritans of Singapore, which won the coveted Promising Brands category. The award aims to inspire and motivate local companies to strengthen their branding strategies.

A book that sheds light on the largely unknown history of the 1950s in Singapore is among the shortlisted works for this year’s Singapore Prize, which is open to non-fiction and fiction books published between January 2017 and May 30 this year. Leluhur: The Story of Kampong Gelam (2019, available here) by Hidayah Amin is the only work on the shortlist with a personal slant. The author, who grew up in Gedung Kuning (Yellow Mansion), a heritage royal building at the heart of Kampong Glam, brings an intimate perspective to her account of the city’s past.

Prof Miksic’s work earned the gong because it was “fundamental in reinterpreting Singapore’s early history”. Although hints had previously been found from literary records, the discovery of an undisturbed layer of soil and pottery during test excavations at Fort Canning in 1984 was a key piece of evidence that there was an ancient community here at least 700 years before Sir Stamford Raffles first set foot in Singapore in 1819.

The prize was mooted in an opinion column Kishore Mahbubani, former president of the Straits Times and NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow, wrote in April 2014. In the article, he described how a shared imagination, especially of history, is “the critical glue that holds societies together”.

A four-member jury panel chose the book over 29 submissions from local and international scholars. The panel was led by Prof Wang Gungwu, chairperson of NUS’ East Asian Institute and a member of the jury for this year’s prize.

The prize’s nominating committee — which reviewed 31 of the books submitted to it by publishers — comprises NUS historians, academics and professionals from the arts and media sectors. They include Associate Professor Ian Gordon, former head of the NUS Department of History; Assistant Professor Seng Guo Quan; educator Beatrice Chong; and curator Suhaili Osman. Prof Mahbubani was also part of the nominating committee, along with NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow and historian Prof Kishore Mahbubani; archaeologist John Miksic; and economics expert Prof Peter A. Coclanis. The jury was convened by the NUS History Department and is made up of a mix of senior and junior scholars.

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