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Inspiring generations of artists, Singaporeans with Our Cultural Medallion Story

Opening remarks by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the Launch of the Cultural Medallion Story

  1. A very good afternoon and warmest welcome to everyone.
  2. I am glad to see many familiar faces today.
    a. I have had the honour of meeting a few of our Cultural Medallion recipients since I joined MCCY,
    b. including Rahimah Rahim, who received the Cultural Medallion by the President at the Istana two days ago.

    Importance of culture to society

  3. Earlier this month, I was in Paris to attend UNESCO meetings.
    a. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Singaporeans living in France, at an event organised by the Singapore Embassy.
    b. When you meet overseas Singaporeans, it is clear that you can take them out of Singapore, but you cannot take the “Singaporean-ness” out of him or her, even if one has been away for a very long time.
  4. But I asked myself as I was speaking with many Singaporeans who have found their own career path, what makes us Singaporean
    a. Is it only the red passport?
    b. Or is it having common friends or shared experiences, or our hawker culture, perhaps?
  5. I think everyone has their own personal answer to it, and will find their own context, their own answers.
  6. But what I know is that to be Singaporean, there needs to be a far deeper connection to our culture, our heritage, sense of belonging, something that we can consider our own, intertwining and bringing us together.
  7. This is the sense of:
    a. Who we are;
    b. Where we come from; and
    c. What we aspire to be, as a people.
    d. In our earlier years of nation building, when we were a young country and starting out, we had to look at our basic needs such as defence, education, housing, healthcare. – All these were high on the agenda. But today, we have come quite far. Our culture, the arts and our sense of who we are and what binds us together becomes increasingly more important.
  8. Yet we remain a small but open society, more connected to the rest of the world than before.
    a. Singaporeans too have more opportunities to travel. We are a lot more globalised in that way, and there are a lot more opportunities for our people.
    b. Similarly, more people from around the world have come to Singapore to work, study, and be part of our society.
  9. It is precisely because we are at this stage of our country’s development, that arts and culture have become more important to most Singaporeans. I think the answer today is very different from our answer several decades ago.
  10. Our local arts and culture form a valued weave which binds us all together, I used this analogy in Parliament before: together we are all part of our Singapore Tapestry. Different colours, different backgrounds, but coming together more beautifully; greater than the sum of its parts.
    a. It reflects expressions of who we are as a people, and what kind of society we aspire to be.
    b. The diversity of our arts, drawn from various communities and cultures, is what gives us our truly unique identity.
    c. And it gives many of us a sense of belonging, whichever part of the world we may find ourselves in.
  11. And who and what could be more representative of Singapore’s arts and culture - than our esteemed Cultural Medallion recipients and your rich bodies of work?

    Cultural Medallion

  12. Since its inception in 1979, the Cultural Medallion is Singapore's pinnacle accolade for the arts.
    a. This distinction has been awarded to 130 remarkable individuals to recognise you for your artistic excellence,
    b. as well as your contribution and commitment to the arts,
    c. and for your role in inspiring others by what you do.
  13. The Cultural Medallion celebrates our best arts and culture practitioners across a wide range of genres and cultural traditions.
    a. It has been awarded to writers, theatre practitioners, visual artists, dancers, conductors, musicians, film-makers, photographers, many of whom have also been long-time educators and mentors.
    b. Drawing practices from traditional art forms, and even popular culture.
    c. Reflecting the incredible diversity of Singapore, and our ability to continually incorporate new and different elements into our culture.
  14. We are very proud of all 130 Cultural Medallion recipients. Some of you are here today.
    a. Your unwavering pursuit of excellence and tireless perseverance have truly enriched and distinguished Singapore’s arts and cultural landscape.
    b. Not only have you set the benchmark for future generations, many of you have also generously shared your expertise and knowledge with aspiring and younger talents in the scene.

    Cultural Medallion Showcase

  15. Today, it is my pleasure to be here, at this historic launch of Our Cultural Medallion Story,
    a. your stories, which have made us truly richer,
    b. in a physical showcase, with a companion website, that celebrates the artistic excellence of Singapore's Cultural Medallion recipients,
    c. And honours your contributions to arts and culture in Singapore.
  16. Your stories and your work trace the arc of development of our society through the decades.
    a. These are very important stories that must be told to all Singaporeans, and to our future generations. We must not lose these stories.
    b. Our future generations can appreciate how far we have come,
    c. Be confident even as we continue to evolve as we look at the trajectory of where we have come before and where we are now,
    d. And what they will play a part in bringing us forward to where we want to be in the future,
    e. And ultimately, to bring us together as a people, unity and social cohesion as one,
    f. And why and how we are proud to bea Singaporean.
  17. In addition, we will also enhance collection and documentary efforts through the Singapore Online Arts Repository, accessible through the website of the National Library Board.
  18. These augment ongoing efforts by our cultural institutions such as
    a. the Esplanade's TributeSG,
    b. National Gallery Singapore and STPI's dedicated exhibitions, and
    c. arts education programmes which have been profiling the works by our Cultural Medallion recipients. 
  19. So there will be ample resources online and offline for anyone who is interested to learn more about Singapore’s Cultural Medallion recipients and your works, in awe of what you have done and to inspire them to do even better. To bring up a generation of cultural practitioners who will go further than what we have done, push the boundaries a little bit more using your works as a foundation.

    Partnering the arts community in looking ahead

  20. In September this year, I mentioned at the Patron of the Arts Awards that the Singaporean arts community is now at an important inflection point. In part, because of the value and role the arts and culture will play.
    a. The Government and our agencies want to work together with the arts community on the way forward. We see this as a partnership that we need to form and nurture to bring our arts ecosystem forward.
    b. The National Arts Council (NAC) has commenced work on the next iteration of Our SG Arts Plan, and has started hosting a series of public engagements. 
  21. Many in the arts community have already stepped forward with candid sharing. Some even criticisms of what we have done, and we learn from them together.
    a. I invite you to join these sessions to inform the blueprint and vision for the next chapter of Singapore’s arts development.
    b. With our collective efforts, I am confident that our arts and culture will resonate and remain relevant to all Singaporeans.


  22. In closing, I wish to thank NAC, Arts House Limited, and all partner agencies – National Library Board, National Heritage Board, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, Esplanade and SPH Media.
    a. Your contributions have made this showcase a reality.

  23. And to our Cultural Medallion recipients,
    a. Thank you once again for enriching the Singapore landscape, and enriching our heritage and our history with your works,
    b. And for inspiring past, present and future generations of artists, Singaporeans and people from around the world.

  24. I wish you the very best and I look forward to exploring the showcase. I hope you will see this at least one physical manifestation of how important it is to treasure and value our arts practitioners in Singapore.

  25. Thank you
Last updated on 27 November 2021