Mongezi Gum was born in Langa and has been passionate about art from a young age. After moving to Johannesburg, he studied drawing, sculpture and printmaking and earned his Diploma in Fine Arts in 1994 from the Johannesburg Art Foundation. He has exhibited at the South African National Gallery, Artscape, AVA, Everard Read and Roots Art Gallery, among others. During the course of his career, Gum spent a number of years working from Greatmore Studios in Woodstock, where he further developed his signature colourful, expressionist style depicting township and village scenes. Gum’s process is as significant as the artworks themselves, and the scenes that he depicts. For him, in a number of ways, art is therapy, and his experiences and observations of every-day life are sometimes translated through a spiritual lens that lends an otherworldly element to his work. During his residency at 16 on Lerotholi, Gum deviated from his usually colourful style, and focused on painting in monochrome. Where township life can be stark and unforgiving, Gum’s paintings depict ease, enjoyment and vibrancy. Black bodies are subjected to various violence’s daily; a fact that often means that occupying space is a spirited negotiation, a fight to be seen, an affirmation of selfhood. Gum’s subjects exist in opposition to this. They are joyful, playful, relaxed and at peace. They embody black joy and love in a way that is natural and necessary. Children play, communities dance and lovers’ repose in spaces that are safe and intimate.
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