A Singapore Prize Has Been Awarded To A Book That Examines Singapore’s Past

singapore prize

A Singapore prize has been awarded to a book that examines the nation’s past in a more nuanced way than usual, with the focus on everyday people and events rather than the big figures of history. The prize, which has 12 top prizes of up to $10,000 for works of fiction and non-fiction in Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil, was voted for by the public online.

The book, entitled Sembawang by Kamaladevi Pillai, follows the story of a family through the various political movements in Singapore. Unlike many historical novels, the work looks at what events meant to average citizens, says Pillai, who is in her 40s. “It is more about how history shapes our present,” she adds. “We understand our history as a result of it.”

Pillai’s work has been shortlisted for the NUS Singapore History Prize, which was established in 2014 and is awarded every three years. The inaugural prize was awarded in 2018 to archaeologist Prof John Miksic for his work, Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800. The prize aims to stimulate engagement with Singapore’s history, broadly understood, and to broaden the discussion of the nation’s place in world history.

It also encourages readers to engage with the complex issues involved in Singapore’s history, says NUS historian Prof James Loo. “It is important that we read about history to know where we came from, where we are and where we want to go,” he tells the Straits Times. “The NUS Singapore History Prize seeks to reach a wider audience of Singaporeans with its emphasis on nuanced and accessible writing.”

In the 2023 awards ceremony, finalists will be invited to attend a series of engagements in Singapore during a week-long event called Earthshot Week. This will bring together global leaders, business and investors, philanthropists and community members to explore opportunities for collaboration and investments in innovative environmental solutions. The prize’s strategic partners include philanthropic organisation Temasek Trust, investment company Temasek, decarbonisation investment platform GenZero and non-profit environmental conservation organisation Conservation International.

Last year, 344 private entities donated over S$32.2 million to the arts sector, a drop of S$14.4 million from the previous year, according to data from the National Arts Council. This includes a record S$24.3 million in donations in cash and in-kind gifts, with S$14.4 million coming from first-time contributors. The rest is contributed by organisations that have been donating for several years.