A self-described artist in training, Tony Gum is the embodiment of Cape Town cool. She ticks all the right hipster boxes, and all the blogger boxes, too. But there’s one thing that sets her apart from every other hipster blogger out there: her ability to call out and challenge cultural norms with so much visual style you could literally pass out. As a South African, it’s refreshing to see someone addressing the socio-economic issues of the nation so honestly and creatively through contemporary art. And I’m not the only one’s who’s impressed. The States is, too, with Tony being the only African artist to exhibit in March 2016 at Pulse New York Contemporary Art Fair.
Often posing as the subject of her own photography, the twenty-year-old is able to portray elements, emotions and visual styles in exactly the way she wants them seen. She’s thorough about this on her blog, too, with detailed descriptions of everything she posts so people understand both context and message. For instance, her Black Coca-Cola series shows how we can embrace Western values whilst remaining true to our heritage. By creating a uniquely African spin on the Coke brand, she brings the best of both worlds into her art through a fascinating fusion of pop culture and the traditional.
Pin Up (Black Coca-Cola)
“Figured Coca-Cola needed a black woman in their presence. This is evidently not a racist remark — just a proud one,” she writes on her blog. “A woman derived from the 60’s, as well as an African woman (which explains why the crate is on my head) merged into one to create an image of Black Coca-Cola lady. An image relatable to every Mom, Pink and Larry.”
In uTwiggy, she brings a distinct African spin to Twiggy’s iconic legacy, while the Milked in Africa series features a green Gum adorned in a variety of accessories, which serve as social commentary. “More so than the female figure, more so than the black being — my continent has inspired this series,” she told Okayafrica recently. “The hardships that each country has had to undergo but equally overcome are very inspiring. Nonetheless, Africa is now dealing with the aftereffects of the hardships, but what sets Africa apart is the fact the ‘She’ remains the power figure.”
Spilt Milk (Miked in Africa)
Flitting between the role of art director, model, stylist and photographer, this talented young woman is the embodiment of art in our digital age, questioning not only social mores but also collaborating with like-minded individuals. Her creations with Nigerian artist Teff, The Don (aka The Expressionist) is a series of bright, psychedelic collages, while her collab with Philia as The Local Collective captures life in Cape Town from a dynamic, youthful point of view.
Her work has seen acclaim at the FNB JoburgArtFair in 2015 and the Cape Town Art Fair in 2016. Her self-portraiture is currently on display at the Christopher Moller Gallery in Cape Town, including pieces from her Black Coca-Cola, Milked in Africa, Free ‘Da’ Gum, iSnap, and uTwiggy series.
Bunny Girl (Black Coca-Cola)
Mother (Black Coca-Cola)
Free ‘Da’ Gum III
Free ‘Da’ Gum II
Someone For Something (Milked in Africa)
Half Full Half Empty (Milked in Africa)
Tony Gum x Teff, The Don Pt I
Tony Gum x Teff, The Don Pt I
Tony Gum x Teff, The Don Pt II