Gum’s presentation, “Ode to She,” is a timely reflection on her own experience as a Xhosa woman. Her work is rooted in the tradition known as intonjane, where a young girl evolves physically and spiritually through the many stages of her native culture.
In her young 20s, Gum is certainly a young artist on the rise, and definitely has both buzz and a real fan base. Vogue anointed her “the coolest girl in Cape Town” and her 40,000 Instagram followers seem to agree.
Tony (Zipho) Gum was born in July 1995. She grew up in KwaLanga in the Western Cape and then moved to Pinelands in Cape Town. She started blogging and using social media sites like Instagram from the age of 15. Her subject matter is predominantly about art, photography, music and life in general. Tony’s biggest influences have been the African photographers, Malick Sidibe and Zanele Muholi, as well as Nigerian novelist, Chimamande Adiche Ngozi. Tony is continuously inspired by their unique approaches in their different fields of creative work. Tony is currently completing the third year of her diploma in Film and Media Studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Tony’s career as an artist launched when she was introduced to Christopher Moller, the director of the Christopher Moller Gallery, through Ashraf Jamal, Tony’s lecturer and prominent South African art critic. The Christopher Moller Gallery has been representing Tony Gum since August 2015.
Her photographs offer the viewer a unique African perception of Western brands and culture. Her works celebrate the best parts of the African continent and of modernity. Tony, often mistaken for a man because of her masculine name, pleasantly surprises viewers as they realise that this young woman is fully involved in the conceptualisation and completion of all of her artworks, whilst featuring herself as various tenacious female personas in all of them. She offers a unique perspective on femininity – indicated through her confident expressions, rather than the use of clothing or make up. She provides a fresh and energetic zeal to the work, which she hopes will stimulate proactive thoughts and actions. Whilst she has carefully constructed each work to convey specific meanings, she wants her pieces to inspire all kinds of unique and interesting viewpoints.
Tony’s work is also strongly driven by the distinct lack of representation of African women in popular culture. This has been a genuine concern for her and admits that it has affected her self-esteem as a young woman. However, instead of complaining about it, she grabbed a camera and started shaping her own identity. In doing so, she has started creating an African model for popular brands, such as Coca-Cola, which were previously only represented by and for limited demographics. She understands the intimate link between a product’s image and the consumers who make these commodities part of their lives. She is creating a new prism with which to view contemporary
Below is the exhibition catalogue. Gum is represented by the Christopher Moller Gallery in South Africa.