UNESCO has officially enlisted Singapore’s hawker culture on its annual list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, joining Korea’s lantern lighting festival Yeondeunghoe and Japan’s wooden architecture conservation.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is a list that recognizes the diverse cultural practices and expressions of humanity and reinforces their importance to the world.
UNESCO’s inscription on hawkers has been a two-year process for Singapore, which announces its intention to nominate it in the UN body’s list at the 2018 National Day Rally. The nomination was formalized after documents were submitted last March 2019.
According to UNESCO, Singapore’s hawker culture has “served as ‘community dining rooms’ where people from diverse backgrounds gather and share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Evolved from the street food culture, hawker centers have become markers of Singapore as a multicultural city-state, comprising Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other cultures.”
With this, the country will be required to submit a report every six years to UNESCO, detailing the efforts made to protecting and promoting its hawker culture.
Hawker culture has been very prominent in local and international media, with a close-up of hawker center dishes being featured in hit Hollywood films like Crazy Rich Asians, and a regular foodie getaway in the television programs of celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay.
After UNESCO’s announcement, a festival entitled SG HawkerFest will be held annually (happening across three weekends, from December 26 to January 11) to allow the public to rediscover Singapore’s vibrant hawker culture.
The festival will also include webinars about the hawker community of Singapore.
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Photos from What I Learned/ TODAY’s Nadhirah Mansor