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
  • Performing Arts
  • Traditional Craftsmanship
  • Food Heritage
  • *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

    Apsaras Arts
    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.

    G.T. Lye 

    Wayang peranakan and dondang sayang

    GT Lye website
    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.

    Michael Ker 

    Making of popiah

    Michael Ker - 4
    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

    Nam Hwa Opera
    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

    Sri Warisan -1
    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

    Thow Kwang 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 above.
      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 years.

    Note: Awards will not be conferred posthumously.

    Nomination Methods

    Self-nomination and public nomination

    Evaluation Criteria

    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. 

    Contact OR 6332 3213.