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ARTS: Different But One 21

Innovation through collaboration

 By Dominic Muwanguzi

An exhibition by Makerere Art lecturers is bound to evoke excitement – after all these are the elite of the modern and contemporary art scene in Uganda.  However, the excitement goes a notch higher when it is the annual `Different But One’ exhibition now in its 21st year. The exhibition now showing at the Makerere Art Gallery has built a reputation for surprise, innovation, and trend setting. The works on display often explore contemporary themes in rousing ways. This time feminism, consumerism, urban survival, and happiness are featured strongly.

Dr. Lilian Nabulime’s “Portraits Through Root Stumps” explores preservation and conservation of nature. The renowned sculptor found the root stumps around the University campus and sculpted them into new life forms reminiscent of nature’s beauty.  The artist describes the dainty challenge of preserving the roots natural form while adorning it with artistic beauty.

“As roots grow and find obstacles, their ability to navigate around them impacts their forms, putting into consideration their original shapes, reveals each root’s vital spirit, energy and prime character,” she says.

The outcome of passion and skill is presented to the public in semi-abstract form with red hot painted lips representing both the feminine character of one piece and the fate of women as objects in a patriarchal society.

Another don, Dr. Rose Kirumira presents works on her favorite topics; consumerism and materialistic culture of Ugandans.  She has a mixed media installation titled “The One that Got Away” which is an irregular form- lying on the floor of the gallery – crafted out of soft drink and beer bottle tops stitched together. The work captures the adversity consumerism on humanity and the environment.

The heart of the exhibition, as the norm is, is the collaborative artwork of Rebeka Uziel (curator of the exhibition) and Prof. Phillip Kwesiga.  As in previous exhibitions, it is evocative of each artist’s personal experience (s) influenced by their cultural and social background. This time the artists explore the subject of the world we live in and how we perceive it. They experiment with the desert landscape that is, Israel, and visually confine the image of bare landscape within fashionable sunglasses.  The image is a stimulating interplay between the verdant Uganda and dry Israel.

Taking an introspective approach, Uziel‘s work is in circular and oval shapes and a strong bright pallet.

“The main idea behind the format is that it represents my life this time. I do make what I really like to do,” says Uziel, “The colours are bright and strong and they show my feelings in life.”

The same vibrant mood and character of the artist reverberate in a portrait of Uziel by artist Jacob Odama also on show.  `Portrait of Rivka’ proudly stares at the audience with a gust of energy. It is the same energy and passion that Rivka presents while curating this show which has become a staple item on the local art calendar. The `Different But One’ exhibition is held precisely every February. Beyond beating the odds this time, waking up from a three months closure of the university, the examination period, and hectic graduation week, the exhibition continues to reflect a determination to innovate and experiment in this era where art is asserting itself as a component of social-economic development. The exhibition is showing now at the Makerere Art Gallery.

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