Novelist, singer wins Cultural Medallion award

by | December 7, 2021

Recognising their contributions to the local arts scene, Chia Joo Ming and Rahimah Rahim were conferred with the award.


Novelist Chia Joo Ming and veteran singer and performer Rahimah Rahim were recently conferred the Cultural Medallion by President Halimah Yacob for their invaluable contributions to the local arts scene.

Chia Joo Ming.

Joo Ming, 62, has been cited as “one of the 10 keywords of Singapore’s Chinese cultural perspectives” by Prof David Der-Wei Wang, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University in The Cultural Perspectives of Sinophone Articulations and Singaporean Experience: Ten Key Words, 2012. He has published 12 books since 1976. His works explore the historical development of Singapore, including the post-independence era and highlights social issues such as immigration. In 2016, his novel m40 was one of the Top 20 Novels (2001-2015) featured in Taiwan’s literary magazine, Wen Hsun, in 2016. His 2018 novel Kian Kok was listed as 2018 Top 10 novels by Yazhou Zhoukan, Asiaweek.

His 2015 novel Exile or Pursuit was selected as the Chinese Literature textbook for secondary schools by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2018. An English-language translation of the novel was published in 2019 and adapted into a stage performance in 2021 by MOE and the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning, in collaboration with InARTS Collective. He was the writer-in-residence at Nanyang Technological University in 2014, and served on the panel of judges for numerous Chinese literary awards, including the Sin Chew Daily Literature Awards in 2019 and Singapore Tertiary Chinese Literature Awards in 2013 and 2015.

Joo Ming was the founding editor for the literary section, urban literature for Shin Min Daily News in 1984, which brought about a new style to the evening newspapers. In 1988, as the Lianhe Zaobao sub-editor for the literary section, he organised a series of projects to nurture potential young writers in the creative writing field.

Spearheading the literary section twice in his career, Joo Ming had undoubtedly made an impact in the local literary arts scene by undertaking the lead planner, organiser and editor roles for activities such as Zaobao Book Choice and Best Selected Works of Literary City since 2014, and was a committee member of Zaobao Literary Festival since 2018.

A recipient of the Young Artist Award in 1993, Joo Ming has also received many major awards including the Golden Lion Literary Awards in 1987, 1989 and 1991, the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s Book Awards in 1996, and Singapore Literature Prize in 2006, 2010 and 2020. In 2017, he received the S.E.A. Write Award for his outstanding literary achievements.

Rahimah Rahim.

The other Cultural Medallion winner was 66-year-old Rahimah. Her artistic journey began at the age of six as a child actress in a Malay film titled Love’s Sacrifice (Korban Kasih) produced by Cathay Keris in 1961. She also acted in Cathay films such as Mother’s Love (Kasih Ibu) and Enter Wind, Come Out Smoke (Masuk Angin Keluar Asap). Apart from films, Rahimah is also known for her role in a Malay television sitcom Mr Awang Temberang (Pak Awang Temberang) produced by Radio Television Singapore (RTS) in the 1960s.

Rahimah’s musical versatility is well-known – she is adept in a range of genres from Malay pop to jazz to Cantopop. At the age of 14, Rahimah made her singing debut performing with her late father, Rahim Hamid, a famous crooner known as Singapore’s Nat King Cole. Together, they performed at nightclubs, and in 1971, she released her first Extended Play (EP) Where Has Your Mother Gone? (Mana Ibumu) under Panda Records with guidance from her uncle, the late crooner Ahmad Daud. She soared to greater heights when she won the prestigious Kimi Koso Star held in Tokyo in 1974.

Rahimah became a sought-after artist with many fans from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. Since the 1980s, she has released 12 solo albums and multiple EPs comprising many hits like, Girls and Flowers (Gadis dan Bunga), Free (Bebas), Love Challenge (Cabaran Cinta), The Broken Heart (Hati yang Rapuh) and Selamat Hari Raya.

She also represented Singapore at many regional and international festivals such as the World Song Festival in 1987, singing multilingual hits and performing alongside notable singers like Miami Sound Machine, Alan Tam, the late Leslie Cheung and the late Sudirman Haji Arshad. Locally, she has collaborated with orchestras like the Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Association Singapore. Rahimah also performed at multiple National Day Parades and Singapore Day events overseas, most recently in London in 2019.

Rahimah believes that great artists must have creative and imaginative minds. They must also be able to change and adapt so as to be relevant and successful. She continues to celebrate her artistic life by contributing to the community through vocal coaching with WINGS and as an online presenter for Vintage Radio SG, which she uses as a platform to share information and educate seniors on current issues. She enjoys collaborating with young talents who are inspired by her larger-than-life personality.

In 2017, for her contributions to the local arts and entertainment scene, Rahimah was inducted into Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame by Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. In the same year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award (Anugerah Perdana Emas) by Mediacorp Suria.

The Cultural Medallion, which was established in 1979, 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. There is currently a dedicated showcase to honour Singapore’s Cultural Medallion recipients and celebrate their achievements at The Arts House.



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