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Tony Gum's First Solo Show Is an Exploration of Self and Pays Tribute to the Xhosa Women Who Raised Her

OkayAfrica catches up with South African artist Tony Gum ahead of her first solo exhibition that opens September 29 in Cape Town.

South Africa's Tony Gum has been teasing us with sneak peeks of her new art on her Instagram page as of late—portraits of her body painted earth-brown with the Eastern Cape in the background, iPhone in hand. Today, we finally get to see her take her new project as it's meant to be seen in a physical space.

Ode to She, Gum's first solo exhibition launching this week at Christopher Moller Gallery, is centered around her exploration, discovery and understanding of the essence of womanhood and the essence of being a Xhosa woman, which she learned from her elders.

“I believe in honoring our individual truths," she says in a press release. "Our ability to pause, reflect, connect and celebrate that which makes each of us whole means we are better placed to recognize and respect this essence in others.”

A fusion of new works and past themes revisited with never-before-seen visuals, Gum presents Ode to She as an intimate still life—a human encounter with the artist. Her work puts a mirror up you, the viewer, and with the incorporation of modern distractions such as smart phones, the reflection allows you to ask yourself, "Am I like that, too?"

Gum also mentions Solange's "A Seat at the Table" inspired her to reiterate the power and representation of Xhosa women, acknowledging their multifaceted roles and their complex experiences of self, family and society.

“So it was important for me that this story be a poem, a song, a letter to She—She, the Being, who understands He/She/Them to be a force, like nature; a person who has been beaten, tried and tested, yet is able to rise above it all,” she says.

OkayAfrica follows up with Gum via email to talk about Ode to She, her growth as an "artist in learning" and more. Read our conversation and take a look at a selection works that will be a part of the show below.

[oka-gallery]

Antoinette Isama for OkayAfrica: What is one discovery you learned while you were in the midst of your elders that you can share with us?

Tony Gum: I learnt that women play such a big role in helping cultivate and preserve the culture. There was a time when the man of the household would have to leave the home (for long periods of time) and go to places like Johannesburg to seek work. The woman, would naturally then become the head of the household. Still taking on her own duty, she then inherits the rest of the duties under her household. I've discovered that women are force that can adapt yet can't be bound.

What been the challenges you've experienced while getting ready for your first solo show?

I'm scared of doing 'it' wrong. 'It' being the interpretation of the body of works, the story and my internal conflicts.

What is one main takeaway you'd like for people to leave your show with when they come see your work?

I want people to pause, reflect, connect and celebrate what makes them whole and honor their individual truth.

As an "artist in learning," how have you grown in your artistry since the world came to know you from your earlier works?

I'd like to believe I've taken a more personal and mature route with my work, but then again, that's also relative. The learning experience has become more immersive; it gets deeper and deeper as I explore my artistry. I can no longer sit in front of my computer and be content with the research that I receive from there, I need to physically try as much as possible to get to the root of the knowledge in order for me to feel content with moving forward. I guess I'm not only learning, I've become an adventurer.


Join Tony Gum at the opening of 'Ode to She' at Christopher Moller Gallery, Kloof Nek, Cape Town on Friday, September 29, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. The show will be on view until November 3.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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