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Different But One 25th Anniversary

At a quarter century, the multi-disciplinary annual s how exudes resilience and collaborative approaches to art.

ARTS | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Different But One Art Exhibition returned this year after a two year inevitable break forced by the Covid 19 pandemic. The exhibition showing now at the Makerere art gallery has its usual aura of energy and vibrancy that is a characteristic of its founder, patron and curator, Rebecca Uziel. This here is the undisputable strength of the exhibition for it has been running now for a quarter a century. This is a feat that is unmatched on the Uganda art calendar. And with such a record, the artists cum lecturers are prompted to display something fresh and new. This is a gesture to match the expectation of their audience and also respond to the theme of resilience which permeate through the works on display.

The multi disciplinary artworks raging from painting to installation and video do not only convey a message of rising from the pandemic, but offer intricate detail on the different studio approaches of respective artists. Here it is obvious that the lecturers create a marriage between their research work and studio production. Prof. F.X Ifee’s two figurative paintings: one on the subject of Cultural heritage in the modern times, contextualized within the Buganda Monarchy, and the other on the achievement of the ruling party NRM, allude to the ongoing research by the senior lecture on how studio production can enhance academic research. Similarly,  Dr. Lilian Nabulime’s wooden reliefs Three in One2022 point to her long standing tradition to work with readily available material to produce art. The reliefs may be quite familiar with her previous body of work on Womanhood but this time, their production on larger surfaces seem to hint on the idea of experimentation or probably a response to the privilege of enormous time afforded to her during the lockdown.

Rebecca Uziel’s tradition of showcasing a series of works inspired by her “three homes” namely Bulgaria, Israel and Uganda is unmistakably fascinating. The thoughtful idea is a deeper reflection of her personality that is both passionate and enduring. It is this same personality that is vividly omnipresent in this exhibition with the manner and dedication she puts it together. Her paintings in mixed media- each medium presenting a particular home- evoke a feeling of belonging, passion and detail all wrapped together into an intense feeling to communicate with her audience. This studio deftness by the octogenarian is what will make the audience at the exhibition stop time and again to look at her art.

In its 25 years, the exhibition offers a myriad of lessons to the artists and its primary audience, the students.  At the opening of the exhibition, Ms. Uziel spoke of how her idea of the annual exhibit was first meant with sceptism. “When I brought up the idea of the exhibition, some lecturers said that artists do not work together, but I said let us do it,” she said. The resolve to do something against the odds is a reflection of determination and self confidence. It is critical to think of these two qualities in art, because art has always faced the challenge of being interpreted as a hobby and not a profession. But art is a profession if one chooses to believe so and vice versa.

Similarly, the idea of collaboration is an important takeaway for the students and artists- lecturers. It is because of this singular characteristic that the group show has been able to wither the different storms it has encountered for the past years. As a symbolic gesture to this virtue, it is a norm that exhibiting artists produce an artwork in the show they have worked on together. In this edition, a bronze bust by Stephen Mwesiga and  Edward Balaba illustrate this collaborative artistic venture.

The resounding commitment by the curator to have Different But One 100, is astonishingly a reflection of her passion and dedication to this project. She is committed to see her baby grow and live on for many years. Yet even at 25 years, Different But One has already matured; producing and inspiring many artists along the way. It is therefore interesting now to anticipate how this exhibition will be like in the next 25 years.

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Participating artists include AssociateProf. Kyeyune, Dr. Venny Nakazibwe, Jacob Odama ( RIP) Prof. F.XIfee, Associate Prof. AmandaTumusiime, Dr.Angelo Kakande, Dr. Kizito Maria Kasule, Edward Balaba, Dr. Lilian Nabulime, Raymond Nsereko, Paul Lubowa and JBKanuge

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