HEIR to the British throne Prince William joined celebrities like Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett, actors Donnie Yen and Nomzamo Mbatha, and Australian wildlife conservationist Robert Irwin on Tuesday as they walked the green carpet at Singapore’s third Earthshot Prize awards ceremony. The awards, held at Changi Airport, celebrate innovations that address climate change and other global challenges. The Prince said that solutions presented by the 15 winners ranging from solar-powered dryers to making electric car batteries more sustainable, proved that “hope does remain” amid the current ravages of global warming.
In addition to recognizing outstanding publications in Chinese, English and Malay written in any of Singapore’s official languages, the prize also recognizes books that highlight mindsets and values integral to shaping Singapore’s society and culture, including equality, diversity, religious harmony, meritocracy and pragmatism. In 2019, the winner of this prestigious award was Meira Chand, an eighty-one-year-old Indian-origin writer who has contributed significantly to Singapore’s literary scene and heritage.
Meira, who is also a winner of the Singapore Literature Prize (SLP) and the Straits Times Bestselling Author award, is known for her non-fiction work on history, social issues and linguistics. Her latest book, “Singapore: The Making of a Nation,” explores the social and cultural contexts in which the early settlers of this small island nation developed their language, literature, music and other cultural expressions.
The SLP, established in 2018 to mark the city-state’s 50th anniversary of independence, is a biennial award that recognizes works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry writing. Its 12 categories are helmed by seasoned and emerging writers alike. This year, SLP also introduced a new category called the Readers’ Choice, which is open to all voters, as well as a Young Readers’ Choice award for works that appeal to children and young adults.
In his speech at the awards ceremony, the Prince of Wales praised the finalists, whom he described as “the people who will make the world a better place.” He also spoke of the importance of ensuring that future generations are aware of Singapore’s rich heritage and its significance to the world.
NUS’s senior advisor (university and global relations) Kishore Mahbubani, who heads the four-man panel that picks the winner for this inaugural prize, said that the jury was impressed by how Prof Miksic’s work was both informative and engaging. He added that the committee might consider expanding the scope of what can qualify for the prize in the future, to include books on Singapore’s history that are not solely academic in nature. This may include novels, movies and comics, as well. He said that this would help make the complexities of Singapore’s history more accessible to the general public. NUS’ Department of Southeast Asian Studies will administer the prize. Prof Miksic is a leading archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Singapore’s Fort Canning Park and Empress Place. He has also taught at NUS for over 30 years. He has a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.