Singapore among 4 countries to nominate the kebaya for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list
Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and Malaysia aim to submit the nomination of the kebaya to UNESCO in March 2023, with the result expected to be announced at the end of 2024.
SINGAPORE: Singapore, together with Brunei, Malaysia and Thailand, will nominate the kebaya for inscription on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, said the National Heritage Board (NHB) in a media release on Wednesday (Nov 23).
This will mark Singapore's first multinational nomination, and the first multinational nomination involving the four countries, the board added.
The multinational nomination of the traditional women's dress, which represents a significant part of Singapore’s Malay and port city heritage, and also reflects the unique blend of cultures in Southeast Asia, was first proposed and coordinated by Malaysia.
"Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand agreed to work together on this multinational nomination as kebaya represents and celebrates the region’s rich shared history, promotes cross-cultural understanding, and continues to be present and actively produced and worn by many communities across Southeast Asia," said NHB, adding that other countries are also welcome to join the nomination.
The list was developed by UNECO in 2008 and is made up of intangible cultural heritage elements from different countries.
It seeks to raise awareness of the importance of such practices and expressions, encourage dialogue that respects cultural diversity, as well as give due recognition to the practices and expressions of communities worldwide.
To qualify for a successful nomination, UNESCO will focus on aspects such as how the kebaya is aligned with the agency's definition of intangible cultural heritage, and how the nomination effort has involved the participation of the community in each participating country.
In December 2020, Singapore's hawker culture was also listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. This was also Singapore's first listing.
Thailand has three elements on UNESCO's list, including Nuad Thai or traditional Thai massage.
Malaysia has six elements, including the martial arts practice of silat, while this is the first time Brunei is applying.
According to NHB, Singapore held six focus group discussions in August and October this year "to seek views and information relating to the social and cultural significance of kebaya to relevant communities, as well as on the multinational nomination".
It was attended by 48 participants which comprised cultural practitioners, cultural association representatives and researchers involved in the making and wearing of the kebaya. The board added that all participants expressed their support for the multinational nomination.
NHB said that from Nov 1 to Nov 3, the board and several community representatives from Singapore attended a workshop organised by Malaysia in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan as part of preparation efforts for the nomination. Community and government representatives from other countries also joined the workshop.
To generate awareness of the kebaya nomination effort, NHB said that it will also organise public outreach initiatives from January 2023 to March 2023.
NHB CEO Chang Hwee Nee said: "Kebaya has been, and continues to be, a central aspect in the representation and display of cultural heritage and identity for Malay, Peranakan and other communities in Singapore, and is an integral part of our heritage as a multicultural port city, with links across Southeast Asia and the world.
"The multinational nomination underscores this multiculturalism and our common roots with the region, and acknowledges the knowledge, artisanal skills and socio-cultural values associated with kebaya."
The NHB said that the four participating countries aim to submit the nomination of the kebaya to UNESCO in March 2023.
The result of the nomination is expected to be announced at the end of 2024.