Tony Gum was born in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a multi-disciplinary artist who blends photography with graphic design, painting, and sculpture. Her work focuses on critical local and global issues such as gender, colonialism, globalization, and identity. Her imagery is rooted in her heritage as a Xhosa woman. The meaning behind her work is a self-reflecting examination of what it means to be a Black woman in the 21st century.
Currently on view at Fotografiska NYC is her series titled “Milked in Africa.” From the press release:
As both muse and canvas, Gum is covered in a layer of green pigment. This materiality is borrowed from her AmaXhosa heritage–a Nguni subgroup from Southern Africa. Xhosa women typically adorn themselves in iqhiya (headscarves) and decorate their faces with the yellow, white, or red imbola (clay) for a range of ceremonial rituals or as a natural sunblock whilst outdoors. As the green woman, Gum is staged with milk in various stages of production, which serves as a metaphor to explore colonial and postcolonial discourse. Gum challenges the pervasiveness of the post-colonial agenda, not only in South Africa, but throughout Africa and its diaspora. Gum’s figuration playfully depicts the exploitive legacy of colonialism and its implications still with us here and now.
Early in the series the green woman’s breasts are overlaid in yellow paint, referencing Africa’s innate richness, positioning her as its source. White pigment, representing milk, is captured in different situations around her—dripping from a bucket, on the Bible, and as a scarf worn by a woman nursing a white baby. History and culture offer fertile ground for Gum to reflect on the extent to which Africa and her people have for centuries been ‘milked’.
Gum states, “I’m not making work exclusively for the art world alone. The message is for my people. There’s so much richness in us that should be embodied and glorified.”
If you find yourself in New York City, stop by and check out the exhibition on display through August 21st, 2022.
You can find information on the exhibition here.
Christopher Moller Gallery represents Tony Gum. All images are courteous of Fotografiska.