Public intellectual and 2010 Singapore Literature Prize winner Simon Tay and Malay theatre doyen Almahdi Al-Haj Ibrahim, known as Nadiputra, have been selected to receive the S.E.A. Write Award, a prestigious award presented to writers from ASEAN countries. The two winners – Simon Tay (2019) and Nadiputra (2020) – will be presented with their awards together at a ceremony in 2022. The 2021 ceremony was postponed due to the Covid pandemic.
The S.E.A. Write Award was established in 1979 to recognise and honour literary excellence in the ASEAN region. Based in Bangkok, the awards have usually been presented annually since 1979 to leading poets and writers in the 10 ASEAN countries which will choose their own winners.
2021’s awards ceremony was initially planned to be held at the end of the year, but Ms Tipsuda Chaichana, who is the assistant to the Secretariat of The S.E.A. Write Award Organising Committee, informed Singapore’s winners in an email that “due to the resurgence of COVID-19 in late April and the ongoing concern for the pandemic, it is not possible for us to organize the SEA WRITE Award Presentation Ceremony late this year as earlier planned.” The organising committee shared that it was hoping to arrange the awards ceremony in early or mid-2022. The award presentation ceremony was previously put on hold from 2016 to 2018 due to the passing of the late King Bhumibhol Adulayadej in 2016. It was restored after the subsequent coronation of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn in May 2019.
Tay and Nadiputra will join a long illustrious list of writers that include Arthur Yap, Catherine Lim, Edwin Thumboo, Haresh Sharma, Ho Minfong, Isa Kamari, J.M. Sali, K.T.M. Iqbal, Rex Shelley, Suratman Markasan, Suchen Christine Lim, Teoh Hee La, Wong Meng Voon and Yeng Pway Ngon.
Both writers Simon Tay and Nadiputra were selected for their literary excellence and contributions to Singapore literature. The award winners are also known for their contributions in other fields.
2019 Winner: Simon Tay
Simon Tay is the chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, a non-profit think tank that delivers policy analysis in international affairs and issues driving environmental sustainability. He has held this position since 1999, as well as a number of public appointments including a Nominated Member of Parliament. His novel City of Small Blessings, known for its themes of alienation and identity, won the 2010 Singapore Literature Prize.
2020 Winner: Nadiputra
Cultural Medallion winner Nadiputra is one of Singapore Malay theatre’s pioneers, and he has written more than 300 works across the mediums of radio, stage and television. Nadiputra contributed many scripts for Malay television as a fulltime scriptwriter with the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation in the 80s and 90s. During this period, he also wrote many critically acclaimed plays and was the president of Malay performing arts group Sriwan.
The S.E.A. Write Award was established in 1979 to encourage ASEAN countries to recognise creative literary talents in the region. The annual Awards Presentation and Gala Dinner has always been presided over by a member of the Thai Royal Family. The awards are given to a writer from a country that is part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) though not all countries in ASEAN have been represented each year.
The 10 countries which comprise the ASEAN region are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore Thailand and Vietnam. The S.E.A.
Write Award Selection Committee is chaired by esteemed poet and scholar Professor Wong Woon Wah, who is also a former winner.
The S.E.A. Write Award’s objectives are:
i) To recognise the creativity of ASEAN writers;
ii) To raise awareness of the richness of each ASEAN’s country’s literary scene; iii) To honour the talents of creative writers in ASEAN;
iv) To bring together the many talents of ASEAN writers.
(Photos courtesy of Singapore Book Council, Wikipedia and Esplanade)