The National Arts Council (NAC) has conferred two Cultural Medallions and six Young Artist Awards, recognising outstanding artists for their artistic excellence and distinctive body of works. They have made significant contributions to the development of Singapore’s arts and cultural landscape and are a testament to Singapore’s growing arts scene. The two awards reaffirm the importance of the arts in our society despite the current challenges and encourage artists to elevate their art-making to impact more lives and build up Singapore’s international standing as a home for the arts. The distinctions were presented to both 2021 and 2020 recipients this evening at the Istana.
President Halimah Yacob said, “I commend the recipients for their indelible contributions and commitment to their craft. The Cultural Medallions and Young Artist Awards celebrate new peaks of artistry and creativity that will inspire future possibilities in the arts scene. This year’s recipients have explored novel forms of artistic expression, and their work will leave a lasting impact on the community. I hope their achievements will encourage more budding artists to pursue their endeavours. Congratulations to all the recipients!”
Established in 1979, the Cultural Medallion recognises individuals whose artistic excellence, as well as contributions and commitment to the arts, have enriched and shaped Singapore’s cultural landscape. Individuals conferred with Singapore’s top arts accolade have made significant strides locally and internationally, displayed extraordinary leadership and inspired younger artists. Now in its 42nd year, the Cultural Medallion has been conferred to a total of 130 artists across various disciplines.
At today’s ceremony, Guest-of-Honour President Halimah Yacob conferred the Cultural Medallion to two highly distinguished artists who have made invaluable contributions to the local arts and culture scene while also breaking new grounds for younger artists.
Novelist Chia Joo Ming is widely recognised for writings with a distinct Singaporean character, drawing upon our historical developments, unique multicultural background, the colloquial language and themes from everyday life which resonate with a wide range of readers. The 1993 Young Artist Award recipient and three-time Singapore Literature Prize winner published 12 books over his 40-year career that have received much local and international acclaim. Notably, his novel m40 was selected as one of the Top 20 Novels (2001 – 2015) featured in Taiwan’s Literary Magazine, Wen Hsun (文讯), in 2016. Exile or Pursuit (放逐与追逐) has also been selected as a key text by the Ministry of Education for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinal Level (GCE O-Level) Literature in Chinese Syllabus in 2018. The publishing of an English-language translated novel further reinforces his growing influence as a writer. Spearheading the literary section in Lianhe Zaobao (联合早报) twice in his career, Joo Ming initiated activities to bring the local literary scene to the fore such as Zaobao Book Choice (早报书选) and Literary Phenomena: A Collection of Lianhe Zaobao Literary Writings (文字现象).
Veteran singer and performer Rahimah Rahim’s versatility to take on a wide range of genres from Pop to Jazz, Ballads, and traditional music, coupled with her ability to sing in languages such as English, Malay, Mandarin, and Japanese, have made her recognisable as an icon of local Malay music. Rahimah’s journey to international recognition and standing began when she clinched the top prize in Japan’s prestigious Kimi Koso Star in 1974. She has since released 12 solo albums and multiple Extended Plays (EPs) and represented Singapore at many regional and international platforms such as the Golden Bell Awards, Taiwan (1981) and ASEAN Song Festival, Singapore (1982), performing multi-lingual hits alongside notable singers. For her contributions to the local arts and entertainment scene, Rahimah was inducted into the 2017 Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation. Rahimah inspires and shares her musical knowledge with the local community, offering vocal coaching at non-profit organisation WINGS and presenting for not-for-profit social enterprise Vintage Radio SG.
Young Artist Award
Instituted in 1992, the Young Artist Award aims to encourage young practitioners aged 35 and below at the point of nomination to continue in their pursuit of artistic excellence, and recognises their potential for greater leadership roles in Singapore and overseas. Six artists are recognised this year for their continued excellence in their respective fields of theatre, filmmaking, dance, visual arts, and music, adding to a total of 169 recipients as of 2021. Beyond their boundary-pushing works recognised at home and abroad, this year’s Young Artist Award recipients exemplify a passion for sharing their craft with fellow practitioners and budding artists, taking on active mentorship roles to nurture and inspire interest for their arts genres in schools and the community.
- Chitra Poornima Sathish is a Carnatic musician who composes, educates and contributes to the performance and academic endeavours at the Temple of Fine Arts Singapore. As one of Singapore’s Indian music composers, she has created original music compositions for numerous dance productions, involving local and international institutions such as Apsaras Arts Dance Company, The Esplanade and the Akram Khan Company.
- Han Xuemei’s multi-disciplinary explorations as a theatre practitioner are grounded in her socially engaged practice. Xuemei has been a resident artist at Drama Box since 2012 and has strong beliefs in youth engagement, which saw her mentoring two batches of participants under Drama Box’s youth wing ARTivate and student groups for the 2015 programme, The Young Can Change The World as part of SCENES: Forum Theatre.
- Singer-Songwriter and Producer Charlie Lim has established himself as one of the region’s most prominent voices in the music scene over the last decade, with his songs transcending beyond the listenership of contemporary Pop genre, appealing to both local and international audiences. As an advocate of nurturing younger artists, Charlie has also served as a mentor for several music programmes.
- Dance artist Norhaizad Adam creates spaces for often unseen or unheard narratives in tradition, such as the themes around morality and behaviourism in Malay culture. The Artistic Director of P7:1SMA choreographs intimate and innovative performances and mentors emerging artists in choreographic tools and performance design.
- Yeo Siew Hua is a writer-director known for creating works that explore the lesser-known stories in society, as typified by his 2018 feature film A Land Imagined, which clinched the Golden Leopard grand prize at the 71st Locarno Film Festival. His works continue to flourish internationally, being screened outside of conventional cinema networks at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
- Zen Teh Shi Wei is an environmental artist and educator whose inquiry into interdisciplinarity has led to collaborations involving geologists, historians, architects, and environmental groups, expressed through a combination of photography, material, and sculptural applications to reflect contemporary urban realities. The Pradap Kow Scholarship recipient also mentors younger artists at the School of the Arts (SOTA) and not-for-profit initiative Studio Lalang.