S’pore hawker culture now officially declared as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage

Singapore’s iconic hawker culture that many know and love has officially choped its way into Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is Singapore’s first item on the intangible cultural heritage list, alongside Belgian beer, French cuisine, yoga in India, and Thai massage, amongst others.

Ci Yuan Hawker Centre 4

During the virtual 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on 16 December, Wednesday night, Singapore’s application was unanimously accepted by the committee. Two years earlier, the intention to nominate hawker culture for the list was announced during the 2018 National Day Rally. Following this, the nomination documents were submitted to UNESCO last March.

“Singapore’s hawker culture is a source of pride for Singapore and all Singaporeans. It reflects our living heritage and multiculturalism,” said Edwin Tong, Minister for Community, Culture and Youth. He thanked hawkers and Singaporeans alike for their support of this nomination.

Jurong West Hawker 35 (1 Of 1)

But the fight doesn’t end there. Having scored a place on the list, Singapore will now need to protect and promote hawker culture in the years to come. Every six years, Singapore has to submit a report to UNESCO documenting and demonstrating efforts to preserve and pass on hawker culture to generations to come.

As a result, the SG HawkerFest will run from 26 December to 11 January 2021 in celebration and commemoration of this global recognition. An online treasure hunt will be conducted via a web-based application, and participants will be able to share ideas and the vision that they have for hawker centres in future.

Jurong West Hawker 22 / UNESCO

This encourages and allows all Singaporeans to take ownership and responsibility in building an emblematic piece of their culture, and now history.

Those who complete the quiz and activities will be awarded virtual badges which can be exchanged for dining vouchers, and are redeemable at 29 hawker centres islandwide.

The topic of nominating our hawker culture as intangible cultural heritage has always been a hot topic for debate. In fact, our Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wani and Zat have discussed this subject at length on our podcast ‘Tapau Please’ what being UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list means for Singapore. Have a listen to it here.