April 13, 2024

Singapore Prize for History and the Prince William Prize for Sustainability

singapore prize

In line with the theme of sustainability, Prince William presented a new prize that celebrates green innovators at a ceremony in Singapore. The Earthshot Prize, funded by the Temasek Trust, Temasek and GenZero, aims to accelerate solutions to “repair our planet.” William walked a green carpet made of recycled materials with finalists at the MediaCorp theater, and actors Hannah Waddingham and Sterling K Brown handed out awards that were also made from recycled materials. The winners were announced at a ceremony where the prince, who is chairman of the Earthshot board, planted a Tembusu tree sapling and addressed a packed audience.

In a speech that echoed President John F Kennedy’s 1962 “moonshot” challenge to the American people, the prince congratulated winners from companies such as Accion Andina and GRST and the WildAid Marine Programme. He also highlighted the work of scientists in Singapore. “It’s great to see our scientists working to make a difference and I hope these prizes will inspire others to do the same,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Singapore prize for history has been awarded to a US scholar for his book on the nation’s past. Professor John Miksic won the prize for his Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, published by NUS Press in collaboration with the National Museum of Singapore. The book beat 29 submissions to win the prize, which is intended to widen the definition of “history” and welcome writings from different time periods if they have clear historical themes. It was judged by a panel that included Kishore Mahbubani, the NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow; historian and academic Peter Coclanis; writer Meira Chand; and Prof Wang Gungwu.

The prize has been lauded by Singapore’s arts community, including the director of the International Festival of Arts, Keng Sen Ong. But critics say that it is part of a pattern of state funding of “propaganda mouthpieces” in the arts and that the prize’s terms and conditions allow it to censor dissenting voices.

This year’s prize is also the first to feature a translation category, open to English-language fiction written by a Singapore citizen or permanent resident and translated into another language. It was inspired by an article by NUS historian and journalist Ian Gordon, who suggested that a translation award be introduced to help the prize diversify its pool of entries. The category is also aimed at encouraging more Singaporeans to learn about their nation’s history. The winner of the 2024 prize will be announced in October. The previous winner was comic artist Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, which was shortlisted in the English Fiction category in 2016 and won the prize the following year. Previously, translated books could be nominated in other categories, such as when Mohamed Latiff Mohamed’s The Widower, which was translated by Alfian Sa’at, was shortlisted for the English Fiction prize in 2016. This year, the translation category is a standalone award. The other two categories are poetry and non-fiction.