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ARTS: Different But One 23

Annual academic-artists’ exhibit emphasises research and collaboration

Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | It is time for `Different But One’ – the annual exhibit by art lecturers of Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine art which has been running for 23 years!

Every beginning of the year, the lecturers come together to exhibit their art, concepts, and latest innovations. The idea is to inspire their students and reflect on what it means to be an artist.

Exhibiting academics include Associate Prof. Phillip Kwesiga, Prof. F. X Ifee, Fedelis Nabukenya, Assoc. Prof. Kizito Maria Kasule, Dr. Ronald Mpindi, Raymond Nsereko, Dr. Rose Kirumira and Dr. Kyeyune George.

The idea to showcase different artworks or ideas in an annual exhibit can be challenging; especially if it involves academic artists who beyond their primary role of teaching and researching on the subject of art at university, also have to produce art. This challenge to multi-task at the same time is visible in the exhibition. With such a perennial cycle, it is inevitable that ideas and art will be recycled or reproduced. Sometimes it is conceptual, other times it is old art trumping new for any number of reasons; including tight deadlines.

This year, as usual, exhibition founder RivkaUziel brings freshness. This time it is collage fabrics ( Kitengi) as a metaphor to her attachment to Uganda, a country she considers her third home after Bulgaria and Israel respectively. The Kitengi is often perceived as a local garment by many people and its appropriation in Uziel’s work `The Home Crane’ perfectly serves the purpose. Its bright colours and diverse patterns allude to the vibrant and colourful rhythm
that pervades the country. The home theme is further visible in the painting `The Home lll’ which depicts a rather small rugged shelter, constructed with hardwood. The image conjures settlements that reside in the Bulgarian countryside, over- looking the Bulgarian sea. Suffice to say, the artist, Uziel, paints it with a sea – blue palette in the background to evoke the idea of the sea. She appropriates sand from the sea in the painting.

Noteworthy also is Prof. Phillip Kwesiga’s display of earthenware titled `Perfume Pot’ (Mishomingi) and Milk Pot (Ekyanzi) that suggest the idea of cultural preservation in this era of modernity where synthetic household objects are taking over the traditional organic utensils in many households. Kwesiga says these objects “have continued to survive and offer new possibilities in terms of resilience and chance in the social and cultural spaces of Uganda.” In light of such statement, these artifacts are still very visible in traditional introduction ceremonies like Okuhingira(Okwanjura) in western Uganda. On the contrary, these pots contribute to the subject of material culture and the conversation that surrounds it. These were both functional objects and artworks in their own right.

An interesting aspect of this year’s exhibit is the inclusion of a guest artist, Moses Nkonge, whose work `Egypt’ and `Spirals’ also offers remarkable ideas on the subject of art making; especially with particular emphasis on themes of studio dexterity and experimentation. He works with stained glass, a seldom used medium among artists practicing on the Kampala contemporary art scene. Stained glass is an ancient medium that is principally used in the designing of cathedrals (windows and doors). It requires a certain level of studio deftness in usage because of its fragility and the complex process of construction and reconstruction on particular surfaces. In the exhibit, the artist nimbly demonstrates this procedure with an astonishingly captivating image.

The `Different But One’ dons make art that is research oriented inspired to meet the demands of global standards.

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The `Different But one 23’ exhibit is showing until Feb.19 at Makerere Art Gallery in Kampala.

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