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Indian-origin novelist awarded Singapore’s highest arts accolade

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Singapore, Dec 6 (PTI) Eighty-one-year-old Indian-origin writer Meira Chand was among the three Singaporeans conferred the Cultural Medallion, the city-state’s most prestigious arts accolade, in recognition of their artistic excellence and contribution to enriching the country’s arts and culture scene.

Chand, fellow novelist Suchen Christine Lim and Malay dance veteran Osman Abdul Hamid received the award from President Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a ceremony held at the Istana on Tuesday, The Straits Times newspaper reported.

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The award comes with an SGD 80,000 grant for each recipient to support their artistic pursuits.

A Singaporean of Swiss-Indian parentage, Chand, along with Lim, is the first English-language female writer to be conferred the award since Ho Minfong in 1997.

Chand is an award-winning novelist known for her depiction of multicultural societies. Her ‘The Painted Cage’ (1986) was longlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize, the report said.

“Each of our three new Cultural Medallion recipients is being recognised for their explorations through life and for inspiring many others, not least the next generation of artists,” President Tharman said in a statement.

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From England to Japan, India to Singapore, Chand’s life, according to her website, straddles the world, and her many novels mirror her journey to pin down the experience of these different cultures upon her and her relationship with them.

According to her website, she was born in London to a Swiss mother and Indian father, grew up, and was educated in the UK.

In 1962, she went to Japan with her Indian husband, where she taught art at an international school. Leaving Japan for Mumbai in 1971, she lived in India for five years, where she began writing.

Calling India a “life-changing experience”, the novelist said, “For the first time in my life, I met a half of myself I had never known. There was simply no way I could understand that experience but through writing,” according to her website.

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The Cultural Medallion, instituted in 1979 by late President and then Minister of Culture Ong Teng Cheong, is the city-state’s “highest arts accolade, honouring individuals whose artistic excellence, contribution, and commitment have enriched and distinguished Singapore’s arts and culture scene,” according to the National Arts Council website.

It celebrates inspiring local arts practitioners who display professional maturity in their practice through a distinctive body of work, and who have made extraordinary contributions to Singapore’s artistic development, the website said.

The award has been conferred to 132 artists in the fields of film, literary arts, performing arts, and visual arts, it said.

Last year, 56-year-old Tamilian Hindu Aravinth Kumarasamy was conferred the prestigious award.

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur
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