Singapore Prize 2022 Finalists Announced

The inaugural NUS Singapore History Prize has been awarded to archaeologist John Miksic for his book Singapore And The Silk Road Of The Sea, 1300-1800. This new award seeks to broaden the definition of ‘history’ by welcoming writing on different time periods and themes relating to Singapore’s past, including creative works such as plays or films with clear historical themes.

The finalists in the 2022 biennial Singapore Literature Prize were announced on August 25 at the Victoria Theatre, with 12 winners from 43 writers in Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil. The pool of submissions was smaller than in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the awards ceremony still included a high profile and some surprises.

In the category of Singaporean literature, Jeremy Tiang’s novel Sembawang was one of the surprise shortlistees. This novel, published four years ago, looks at a family’s experiences of leftist political movements in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1970s and 1980s. This book’s inclusion in the competition is a boost for its publisher, Epigram Books.

Other surprise shortlistees were novels by writers such as Timothy P. Barnard (Imperial Creatures) and Yen Mingxin (Home Is Where We Are). Both books have won other prestigious prizes, with Imperial Creatures also a finalist for the British Society of History of Science’s Hughes Prize, while Home Is Where We Are has been longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

The organisers of the prize also announced that it is expanding the categories in 2024, with a new translation category and one for debut writers and comic-book authors. This will help “recognise and promote increasingly diverse published works by Singaporeans and permanent residents”.

In the architecture category, Kampung Admiralty by Indonesian architects Budi Prajot and Tito Supriatna won this year’s top honour. The building, which is a post-earthquake reconstruction in a village, is one of several recent community or public buildings to win the award.

As the prize winners were honoured at the Singapore Arts Centre on August 25, Prince William took a moment to plant a Tembusu sapling in the garden of the venue, which is designed with sustainability in mind. This was in line with the theme of this year’s event, which celebrates’repairing our world’. Speaking after the award ceremony, Gunnlaugur Erlendsson of UK-based ENSO, which creates tyres for electric cars that reduce tyre pollution, told The Straits Times that William was an inspiration for his own work on climate change and the awards were a great way to celebrate those who are trying to make a difference.

In keeping with the sustainability theme, William wore a 10-year-old dark green blazer by Alexander McQueen, while other presenters such as Donnie Yen and South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha wore old suits. The glitzy ceremony was co-hosted by actors Hannah Waddingham and Sterling K. Brown, and the bands One Republic and Bastille and US singer Bebe Rexha performed for the night. Other luminaries at the event included actor Cate Blanchett and environmentalist and science broadcaster Bill Nye.