Singapore Prize Winners and Merit Winners

The Singapore Prize, launched in 2014 to mark the nation’s 50th anniversary, is awarded every three years and is the first prize dedicated solely to Singapore history. The inaugural prize went to archaeologist John Miksic for his book Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800.

This year’s winner is a book by historian Hidayah Ibrahim on the story of Singapore kampong gelams, or community-built villages in the 1930s and 1940s that provided a sense of stability and identity to residents. The prize committee described the book as “an elegantly crafted and well-researched narrative.”

A new generation of Singaporeans, born in the 1990s, are growing up with a much greater understanding of their ancestors. Many of them have been exposed to their rich culture and traditions through family gatherings, such as the annual Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Chinese New Year celebrations. And some have even traveled to the villages in their youth, rekindling memories of a simpler time.

In addition to the top prize, there are also eight merit winners. These books cover a range of topics, from the origins of Malay cuisine to the life of an iconic Singaporean musician. Among them is the novel Sembawang by Jeremy Tiang, published in 2017 and about an extended family who lived through leftist political movements and detentions. Another is the award-winning graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew, which is widely regarded as one of the Oscars of the comics world.

An NUS lecturer helped her mother Kamaladevi research the book, and she hopes the Singapore Prize will encourage more ordinary citizens to tell their own stories. “It is important to realise that you don’t have to be a professional historian to write a history book,” she says. “Anybody who’s lived through a proportion of their lives in Singapore has a history to share.”

While most of these books are academic in nature, some focus on the personal experiences of ordinary people. A book about a man who ran away from home to become a pirate is also in the running for the prize, as is the story of an AIDS patient.

The list of the top 10 books is now available online, and the results will be announced at a ceremony on 28 June. The winners will receive a cash prize of S$10,000 each and will be invited to present their work at the event. The judging panel is made up of experts in the field from Singapore and the region, as well as members of the public.

Those interested in participating can submit their entries to the Prize Committee by 29 May. The Prize Committee will assess each nomination against the judging criteria and shortlist the top 10. Submissions can be made for either research or education projects. The IPS Awards Committee would like to hear from anyone who has made significant contributions to physics in Singapore or the region over the past two years.