Susan Kiguli received the Festival Di Poesia Civile Vercelli 2023 lifetime award in Vercelli, Italy on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
Festival Di Poesia Civile Vercelli (English: International Civil Poetry Festival of the city of Vercelli), established in 2005, is the only Italian festival celebrating this important aspect of contemporary poetry. The function of poetry in civil life is a complex and pertinent topic and the festival offers a broad and stimulating overview of it. One of its biggest draws is the annual lifetime achievement award that has attracted great national and international authors to Vercelli for past editions and with readings by Italian poets and tributes to influential authors. Some of those who have been Maurizio Cucchi (2021), Jesper Svenbro (2020), Adam Zagajewski (2019), Giampiero Neri (2018), Faraj Bayrakdar (2017), Katherine Larson (2016), Márcia Theóphilo (2015), Tony Harrison (2014), and Lambert Schlechter (2013).
The recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement is Uganda poet (and academic) Susan Kiguli. As part of their citation on their website organisers said,
Susan Nalugwa Kiguli, born 24 June 1969 in Luweero District, Uganda, is a Ugandan poet and literary scholar. She is an associate professor of literature at Makerere University. Kiguli has been an advocate for creative writing in Africa, including serving as a founding member of FEMRITE, a judge for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (African Region, 1999), and a member of the advisory board for the African Writers Trust. As a poet, Kiguli is best known for her 1998 collection The African Saga, as a scholar, and for her work on oral poetry and performance.
From the back cover of the book Terre che pipianto , plaquette of the festival: «Susan Kiguli, a Ugandan poet published here for the first time in Italy, has a peculiarity: she talks about horrors – such as the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda or the violence in her country – with a severe look that at the same time rejects blind anger. A look and a word that remain tender and enveloping: «I observed you / with the curious interest of a confused little girl / while you embodied the survive and win philosophy / I am convinced that / if I learned these lessons and learned them well / a revolution / a revolution to support / the splendid nation / in which I was born ».
Edition for the prize of the international civil poetry festival of Vercelli edited by Antonella Sinopoli with translation by Marta Zonca”.
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.
Dr Susan Kiguli was given her award by Luigi Di Meglio.