The Stewards of Singapore's Intangible Cultural Heritage Award
The Stewards of Singapore’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Award aims to recognise practitioners (individual and groups) of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) who are dedicated to the promotion and transmission of their practices, and have made outstanding contributions in their field.
This award conferred by the National Heritage Board (NHB) is one of the key recommendations for the safeguarding of ICH, as part of Our SG Heritage Plan, the masterplan for the heritage and museum sector for 2018 to 2022.
ICH elements practised by the nominated practitioners need to be part of NHB's ICH Inventory, which consists of six categories:
*Social Practices, Rituals and Festival Events
Knowledge and Practices concerning Nature and Universe
Oral Traditions and Expressions
*The scheme excludes practices that are overtly religious or spreads the teachings or beliefs of any one religion
Inaugural Recipients - 2020
Apsaras Arts Ltd
Indian Dance Forms
Image Credit: Apsaras Arts Ltd
Since 1977, Apsaras Arts, founded by arts pioneers the late Mr and Mrs Sathyalingam, has been promoting Indian classical dance both locally and internationally through performances, festivals and classes. It is now led by Mr Aravinth Kumarasamy, who is one of the earliest recipients of NAC's Young Artist Award. Today, Apsaras Arts is both performing company and an academy with a key aim of building new audiences through various programmes which showcase young and upcoming Singaporean artists through a solo performance series.
Apsaras Arts has also embarked on industry development initiatives for the local Indian dance community such as formal training courses and residency programmes for professional dancers, which also allows them international performing opportunities such as the Darshana series. To train and nurture the younger generation, it conducts outreach to schools, and special dance courses for young children. On a broader level, Apsaras Arts has regular engagement with the community through public programmes that include Silver Arts Festival, public workshops and masterclasses.
Wayang peranakan and dondang sayang
Image Credit: Gunong Sayang Association
G.T. Lye is a veteran and iconic Singapore actor, who is a major contributor to wayang peranakan and dondang sayang in Singapore. He is credited as the one who helped
revive wayang peranakan in the 1980s. His mastery of the traditional art of female
impersonation in wayang peranakan performances is recognised as unmatched both
within and beyond the Peranakan community in Singapore. He has decades of experience
as a wayang peranakan actor, scriptwriter and co-director. Over the years, he has
nurtured future generations of actors and audiences, coaching and mentoring younger
practitioners to encourage the continuation of the practice of wayang peranakan and dondang sayang.
Making of popiah
Image Credit: Michael Ker
Michael Ker is the third-generation owner of Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah, an 83-
year-old family business located in Joo Chiat. He continues the practice to make popiah
skins from scratch using the traditional hand-made technique, which he had learnt from
his father. He has been training his younger nephew and cousin to make popiah skins
using this technique and is seen as an inspiring figure by younger family members and
visiting students. Michael experiments with new versions of popiah to cater to different
tastes and to appeal to younger generations. He also obtained a Halal certification for his
restaurant so that his popiah can be consumed by more people from different ethnicities
too. Collaborations with the Singapore Tourism Board have enabled Michael to help
promote heritage activities in the Katong/Joo Chiat precinct, as well as to showcase
popiah-making at international food festivals.
Nam Hwa Opera
Teochew opera and Music
Image Credit: Nam Hwa Opera
Founded in 1963 by avid fans of Teochew opera, Nam Hwa has since grown into a
prominent Teochew opera company known for its promotion of traditional Teochew opera
over many decades. It runs workshops and outreach performances at community spaces
including hospitals and schools. Since 2016, Nam Hwa runs the annual Nam Hwa Blazes
festival featuring free public Teochew opera performances. Nam Hwa trains young
musicians and practitioners, holding masterclasses in Teochew music and operating
training classes. As part of efforts to safeguard Teochew opera, it set up the Yeo Khee
Lim Teochew Culture Research Centre, with the aim of becoming a hub for research in
Teochew culture and an archive of Teochew opera.
Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd
Malay Dance, Dikir Barat, Wayang Kulit, Bangsawan
Image Credit: Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd
Founded in 1997, Sri Warisan has been involved in hundreds of local and international
events and festivals, establishing a trademark style of blending traditional Malay forms
with contemporary techniques. The group was founded by Cultural Medallion winner,
Mdm Som Said.
Sri Warisan is committed to nurturing an interest in the Malay art forms among children
and youth, and since 1999, has run a wide range of education programmes with schools,
in particular through the National Arts Council's Arts Education Programme. They have
also supported many productions and community projects with their expertise; for
example, they conducted intensive Malay dance and music workshops for the cast of the
Lion King musical in Singapore, Germany, China and the Philippines.
Thow Kwang Industry Pte Ltd
Making of Wood-fired Pottery
Image Credit: Thow Kwang Industry Pte Ltd
Thow Kwang is a family business that owns and operates one of the two remaining
dragon kilns in Singapore. Mr Tan Teck Yoke and Mrs Yulianti Tan currently manage the
overall operations of the kiln, alongside third generation practitioner, their niece Ms Stella
Tan. Since the 1980s, they have developed a wide range of outreach programmes and
community initiatives, educating the public on the wood-firing process through regular
classes and guided tours.
Thow Kwang has evolved from manufacturing pottery products to its current day focus on
community engagement and creating artisanal products. It has become a hub for a
community of local clay artists, known as the Thow Kwang Clay Artists, in utilising the
firing process and transmitting knowledge of the craft. Thow Kwang’s continual promotion
of its craft and history to various segments of society, from as young as primary school
students, has resulted in greater visibility for the dragon kiln in Singapore. It gets
volunteers and young enthusiasts to join in the firing of the dragon kiln, which occurs two
to three times a year. Another notable initiative by Thow Kwang is therapy sessions with
social service organisations, demonstrating how intangible cultural heritage can be utilised to enhance well-being
and foster an inclusive society.
Each recipient (individual or organisation) will be presented with a plaque/trophy, certificate of award, and S$5,000 cash prize.
Each recipient will also have the option to tap up to S$20,000 in project funding. This is subject to the approval of the proposed project. Please click here to find out more.
Award Categories & Eligibility
i. Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, 18 years and
ii. Must be a practitioner with minimum 10 years in vocation and
a respected member of the practising community.
i. Must be based in Singapore and headed by a Singapore
Citizen or Permanent Resident
ii. The group must have been practising for a minimum of 10
Note: Awards will not be conferred posthumously.
Self-nomination and public nomination
Nominees are evaluated according to how they have
demonstrated the following criteria:
| Transmission of Skills and Knowledge
- Displays outstanding efforts to transmit skills and knowledge
- Regular engagement with the wider community
- Ability and dedication to continue to transmit skills and knowledge
| Mastery of Skills and Practice
- Displays excellence in the application of both knowledge and skills
| Dedication to the practice
- Long term commitment to the continuation of the practice and craft.
| Positive Impact and Influence
- Serves as a positive example to the general community
- Displays efforts or to profile the practice or craft at local, national, regional or international platforms.
Applications for the 2020 Stewards of Singapore's Intangible Cultural Heritage Award are now closed.
firstname.lastname@example.org OR 6332 3213.