During the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore’s cultural and educational institutions played an important role in bringing communities together to build resilience. They also helped to keep people informed, entertained and connected as they faced the challenge of the virus and its impact. The winners of the 2019 Singapore Prize are recognised for showcasing these qualities in their work and contributions to society.
The Singapore Prize recognises outstanding published books in English, Malay or Chinese by Singaporeans and Singapore residents, as well as works on Singapore by authors from other countries who reside in the country. The winning book should be a significant contribution to the understanding of Singapore, its history and culture. It should also have a broad appeal to the general public in Singapore and beyond. The winners receive a cash prize of $10,000 and a trophy. In addition, they are awarded a tour of the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This year’s shortlisted works include a book on the life of pioneering feminist activist Madam Lee Lian, a biography of former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and a history of the city’s Chinese community. The winners will be announced in a ceremony at the Victoria Theatre on 20 October.
In the past, the award has been presented to a range of works on the theme of Singapore and Southeast Asia. It has also been given to non-fiction titles, including a memoir of former Singapore President Lee Hsien Loong, a history of the Singapore Stock Exchange and an exploration of the city’s architectural heritage.
The 13th Benesse Prize saw five Singapore Biennale artists competing for the top honour, which comes with a $3,000 cheque and a plaque. They were whittled down from a shortlist of 10 by a jury that included artist and curator Pratchaya Phinthong; photographer and art historian Walid Raad; sculptor Araya Rasdjamreansook; and art critic Haegue Yang.
Ms Hidayah was chosen for her book Gedung Kuning – Kampong Glam, which focuses on the history of an urban community in one of the oldest parts of the Singapore capital, where she grew up. Her winning essay was described as “stellar, rich and deeply evocative”, and the judges said they were impressed by how she had spent five years on her research.
Britain’s Prince William was in Singapore on Tuesday to award the Earthshot Prize, which supports companies tackling the global environmental crisis. He said the winners, ranging from an Indian maker of solar-powered dryers to combat food waste to a soil carbon marketplace and groups that help make electric car batteries cleaner to bolster marine enforcement to deter illegal fishing, showed that hope does remain as the world faces “increasingly devastating climate change”.
He was joined by celebrities Cate Blanchett, Donnie Yen and Lana Condor, as well as conservationist Robert Irwin to walk the green carpet at the event. Gunnlaugur Erlendsson, a winner who is developing tyres for electric cars that reduce tyre pollution, told the prince his commitment to repairing the planet meant everything.