Singapore’s nomination of Hawker Culture for UNESCO’s representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage has upset some people.
The intention of UNESCO’s list is to safeguard for all of humanity, aspects of different cultures in different countries. The list does not prevent more than one country from submitting seemingly similar intangible culture heritage if indeed, it is reflective of their lives. For example, both Turkish Coffee and Arabic Coffee are listed.
UNESCO’s list is inclusive. It acknowledges that “we may share expressions of intangible culture heritage that are similar to those practiced by others. Whether they are from the neighbouring village, from a city on the opposite side of the world, or have been adapted by peoples who have migrated and settled in a different region, they are all intangible culture heritage.”
In Singapore, hawker culture is reflective of our daily lives; it is a living and breathing expression of our multicultural heritage, in terms of food, language and habits. Every single day, people from all walks of life share tables, be it to enjoy a bowl of noodles or eating merely for sustenance. It is a reflection of the local community, more so than Crazy Rich Asians (fun to read/watch though) could ever be.
In a connected world, it is natural for culture and heritage to share similarities across geographical regions or countries. Let us show mutual respect for one another’s cultural heritage. There is enough room at the table for all of us.