Susan Kiguli was born in the Luweero District, Uganda, north of the capital Kampala in 1969. She studied education and literature at Makerere University and later at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1998 her first collection of poetry »The African Saga« was published by the Ugandan Female Writers’ Association »Femrite«, which had been founded a few years earlier as a response to the neglect of women’s voices in local literature. Within a few months a second edition was published, and the book was awarded the National Book Trust of Uganda Poetry Award, in 1999. Since then Kiguli has been recognized as one of Africa’s most interesting young poets who write their poems in the oral story-telling tradition.
The four sections from »African Saga«, entitled »Poems of Protest«, »Relational Poems«, »Poems of Nature« and »Existential Poems« perfectly illustrate the range of her themes. The devastating effects of colonisation and postcolonial dictatorship are almost ubiquitous in her work, in the irate feminist lines that criticise the violent oppression of women, or – as strong counterpoints to adversity and suffering – in the manifold forms of love or in experiences of the beauty of nature. There is an underlying positive tone in the concise, rhythmic language full of rhymes and strong, often religious images. Critics such as Austin Bukenya have noted that it is the »subtle ability to blend a hard-headed realistic look at the horrors of the African condition with an unquenchable optimism that is one of the main strengths of Kiguli’s verse«.
Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies. »Have You Watched a Tree Smile« was published in German translation in »Berliner Anthologie« (2001) and a year later in »Antilopenmond«. The volume of photographs by David Pluth and Pierre François Didek, »Eye of the Storm« (2002), uses poems by Kiguli to present Uganda to the reader.
The author was a member of the panel of judges for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, 1999. In 2004 she published her doctorate »Oral poetry and popular song in post-apartheid South Africa and post-civil war Uganda: A study of contemporary performance«, written at the University of Leeds. Kiguli lectures at Makerere University and was chairperson of the »Femrite« Uganda Women Writers’ Association from 2005 to 2007. She recently co-edited an anthology »I dare to say« (2007), a collection of women’s testimonies about living with AIDS.
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