22/09/2017 17:04 SAST | Updated 10/10/2017 12:59 SAST

Ode To She : Artist Tony Gum Launches Her First Solo Exhibition

A world-acclaimed artist is looking forward to preserve her past.

Tony Gum

Artist Tony Gum, who Vogue magazine once dubbed "The Coolest Girl in Cape Town", will open her very first solo exhibition with an extraordinary series of images that explore her heritage as a Xhosa woman, and how it collides with modern culture.

"I wanted to explore a narrative of embracing the traditions, without losing them in the age of modern technology," Gum told HuffPost SA.

Her exhibition, called "Ode to She", features a series of self-portraits -- the medium the artist is famous for -- where she is photographed in traditional Xhosa attire, called Umbacho, but holds modern props, like a Nespresso machine and a cellphone.

iindonga / ph. @anunaka

A post shared by Mr. (@tony_gum) on

"As young women, we are very self-aware and live in an age where we can document our own experiences. She is embracing the traditions, without losing them in the age of modern technology, and this is important because we don't want to lose part of ourselves because we couldn't adapt to our present age. We need to survive," she says.

To create the images, Gum went on a pilgrimage to the Eastern Cape -- her ancestral homeland -- where she learnt about the rituals of womanhood in Xhosa culture.

"I got the opportunity in December 2016 to go on a quest not only to find my home, but to meet with a woman from the Eastern Cape, an elder, to get an understanding of the three different stages that woman have to go through in the culture."

A pleasant reminder / ph. @anunaka

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"We, as women, need to undertake some ceremonies to call ourselves women - one of them being Intonjane. It's the ceremony that you would do before you get married, or become a mother, or grandmother. It's similar to the initiation phase of men, except we don't cut anything on our bodies. But we do get isolated, and then taught by elderly women how to conduct ourselves as woman.

"We learn things like the way they once dressed, which is no longer the same, and there are these special clothes that they give you, and then usually after that it is a week and then there is a special celebration, where you wear the clothes, and then you are finally acknowledged as a woman.

film takes / Tabase Mission, eMthatha

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"It was important for me to learn that we need to be welcomed into our womanhood, and given that, almost like a reward," the artist says.

Gum's exhibition is on at Christopher Moller Gallery in Cape Town, where you can see some of the new images below:

Photo galleryTony Gum: An Ode To She See Gallery