Singapore Prize 2019 Winners and Runners-Up

singapore prize

Founded in 1992, the Singapore prize recognises excellence in writing across English, Chinese and Malay languages. It awards $3,000 to the best piece of work, and a trophy, in each language. The award is open to writers and readers alike, with the public voting for their favourites.

The 2019 edition of the prize saw 192 submissions, down from 224 in 2020. The Book Council said this is “an indication of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the publishing industry”.

Eight first-time winners were crowned, including literary pioneer Edwin Thumboo, who was awarded the SBC Achievement Award. Other first-time winners include alllkunilaa (Azhagunila), innnpaa (Inbha), Jee Leong Koh, rmaa cureess (Rama Suresh), Suratman Markasan, Wang Gungwu and Yeow Kai Chai.

In the English fiction category, a novella written by former Straits Times journalist Clara Chow earned herself three nominations. She is also shortlisted in the Travelogue category, as well as the Readers’ Favourite English and Chinese categories.

The Singapore Prize celebrates writing that addresses social and cultural issues. Its winners and runners-up reflect the diversity of our world and are able to explore complex issues, such as racism, colonialism, economics and immigration, in a fresh way.

This year’s prize, which celebrates its 21st anniversary, saw a strong showing of Singapore-born writers. With eight of the 12 winners originating from Singapore, it is an especially exciting moment for our country’s literary scene.

Writers such as the late Ms Hidayah Amin, who won for her essay Leluhur: Singapore’s Kampong Gelam, and the Chinese writer Dr Yu Fan, who was rewarded for her work of literature titled Home is Where We Are, are a testament to the strength of our literary scene.

It was also a night to remember for Singaporean filmmakers. Despite the plethora of global political tensions, the film Mubarak, about a Palestinian migrant worker in Singapore, took home the top award. It comes with a cash prize of SGD8,000 ($5,915), and an online, audio post and DCP package, audio final mix and DCP feature worth SGD45,000 from Mocha Chai Laboratories.

During the event, SLP chairman Mr Kishore Mahbubani announced that a new prize will be introduced for the 2021 edition of the SLP, with an emphasis on Southeast Asia. It will be named the NUS Singapore History Prize and will be given to an individual or group whose work makes an outstanding contribution to the field of Singapore history.

The prize will be administered by the NUS History Department, with a five-member Jury Panel comprising Ms Hidayah Amin, economist Dr Lam San Ling, historian Professor Peter Coclanis and archaeologist Emeritus Prof John Miksic from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

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