The singapore prize, which is administered by the Department of History of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS), was established in 2014 when an anonymous donor provided an endowed gift to fund the Prize. The Prize aims to stimulate an engagement with Singapore’s history broadly understood, and to cast a wide net for consideration of works that deal with history.
The winning work will receive an award of $50,000 Singapore. Shortlisted books will be publicly announced and featured on the program website. The Prize will be awarded every three years.
Last month, Singaporean comics creator Sonny Liew won three Eisner Awards — the graphic industry’s equivalent of the Oscars — for his wry alternate history of tightly-controlled Singapore. He took the top prizes for Best Writer/Artist, Best US Edition of International Material – Asia and Best Publication Design.
This year, the prize has expanded its criteria to include books on the arts and humanities, as well as history, in order to give a platform to diverse writers in Singapore. The winners are selected by a panel of judges that includes NUS professors Kishore Mahbubani, Meira Chand and Lam San Ling as well as historians Peter Coclanis and John Miksic.
It is the first time that the prize has included both fiction and non-fiction, as the organizers hope to inspire a broad range of people to engage with Singapore’s history. The jury will be looking for a work that resonates with Singaporeans and the wider world, and one that is elegantly written.
Among this year’s winners, eight of the 10 were writing for the first time. The debut authors include alllkunilaa, innnpaa, Jee Leong Koh, rma cureess and Suratman Markasan. The other winners were literary pioneer Edwin Thumboo, who clinched the prize for English Poetry, and literary critics Wang Gungwu, Jee Leong Koh and Yeow Kai Chai, who won for their books on literary history.
Also among the 2023 winners was Mubarak, a drama about an ex-con who returns to his village in central Thailand. The film won the special award for outstanding achievement in Asian cinema. “We celebrate cinema tonight despite motherfucker Putin, motherfucker Xi Jinping and motherfucker Trump,” read the jury’s citation for the award, which comes with a cash prize and a coveted gold medal displayed at NUS. In addition, the Southeast Asian Film Lab’s Gabriela Serrano and Rein Maychaelson won fellowships that come with a residency or script mentorship, while Giovanni Rustanto won a special mention for his movie A Ballad of Long Hair.