Ugandan professor Susan Kiguli receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Italy

Dr Susan Kiguli was awarded at the festival project chaired by Luigi Di Meglio. PHOTO MAK MEDIA

Venice, Italy: Ugandan poet, writer and academic, Professor Susan Kiguli has been honoured with a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the internationally acclaimed Civil Poetry Festival in Vercelli, Italy.

The award is in recognition of her remarkable contribution to the world of poetry. It places her alongside other luminaries in the literary world, such as Jesper Svenbro, Adam Zagajewski, Tony Harrison, Adonis, and Evgenij Evtushenko.

Currently serving as an associate professor in the Department of Literature at Makerere University, Kiguli is a renowned figure in the realm of poetry. The International Literature Festival- Berlin, on its website notes that she is celebrated “as one of Africa’s most interesting young poets who write their poems in the oral story-telling tradition.”

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Kiguli’s poetry has appeared in pages of journals and anthologies, both on the national and international stage. Her poetic talent has earned her various fellowships, allowing her to travel and share her literary prowess across the globe. She has left her mark at big literary events such as the International Literature Festival and has even graced the Library of Congress in Washington, DC with her poetic readings.

Prof. Kiguli is one of the founders and former chairperson of Ugandan Female Writers’ Association, known as “Femrite,” which was established in response to the neglect of women’s voices in the local literary landscape. She also co-edited the anthology “I Dare to Say”, a collection of women’s testimonies about living with AIDS, showcasing her commitment to addressing important social issues through her literary work.

Associate Professor Susan Kiguli signs copies of her poetry collection, ‘Weeping Lands,’ during the award ceremony. PHOTO MAK MEDIA

From Small Beginning, Chasing The Dream

Born in 1969 in Luweero District, Prof. Kiguli’s poetic journey traces back to her high school days at Gayaza High School, where she first began weaving verses in both Luganda and English.

But, it was her 1998 work, “The African Saga,” that catapulted her into the league of the most exciting poets from Eastern and Southern Africa. This volume not only secured the National Book Trust of Uganda Poetry Award in 1999 but also etched its name in the annals of Ugandan literary history by selling out in under a year.

One of her most famous poems from The African Saga, “I Laugh at Amin,” is a powerful and evocative piece that delves into the brutal reign of President Idi Amin, with lines like, “I laugh with all the skulls Amin holds in his hand,” invoking the horrors of a dark era in Uganda’s history.

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In her body of work, Prof. Kiguli portrays the harrowing repercussions of colonization and the tumultuous era of postcolonial dictatorship. Her verses are infused with fiery feminist sentiments that vehemently denounce the brutal subjugation of women. Notably, her doctoral research at the University of Leeds delved into the realm of oral poetry and popular song in post-apartheid South Africa and post-civil war Uganda, shedding light on the power of oral traditions in recounting the struggles of these regions.

In her most recent literary achievement, a captivating collection of poetry titled “Weeping Lands,” Prof. Kiguli’s work resonated so deeply with the audience that on the night she received the award, eager readers clamored for her autograph.

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