Celebrating 100 Years of the Coca-Cola Glass Bottle Exhibition – Kabelo Modise

kabelo Modise (4)


As I work a lot with contour lines in most of my work, the Coca Cola contour bottle was just the perfect focus to venture into and take it to the next level of its branding. The only difference was the popular culture behind the contour bottle and what a privileged to explore the popular culture behind the bottle in line with my line signature of creating drapery in every work of art I do or inspired. I believe in something which repeats itself as part of my inspiration. The repeated pattern in each an ever subject matter really pulls my focus to the point of losing the real subject matter as the main focus but rather make it an illusion within the concept.

Contour Bottle as it is known, became part of my drapery signature as an artist. It blended well with my current concept of embracing Coca Cola since last year. The bottle became a stepping stone to accelerate my love for it and the freedom to embrace it to the next level. I think there is a difference between branding and embracing the contour bottle. My ideology is that I am embracing the bottle in a visual aspect and looking further to embrace it in different mediums of art. I feel that if the bottle can repeat its popularity through the years/century, why not embrace it though my linocut medium and painting medium. I had found it a perfect combination to work with and my lines portray movement within the subject matter and I try so much to engage the viewer in an optical manner rather than just still imagery. More drapery in my work is about tricking the eye at its best and by so doing there will be some movement between the artwork and the viewer. The more the viewer squint and bounces back and forth in trying to depict/ look at the imagery of my work, the more I feel content and applauding my accomplishment. It’s not all about hiding the concept or making it difficult to look at, it’s all about the visual practice of embracing the popular culture of the Coca Cola contour bottle.

Celebrating 100 Years of the Coca-Cola Glass Bottle Exhibition – Mbongeni Buthelezi


                                                   Boys at play, 272x185cm, 2007

In the short space of sixteen years Mbongeni Buthelezi has made a name for himself as a professional artist of note. He has emerged as a powerful force in the Visual Arts in South Africa and Internationally in the 21st century.
Before coming to Funda Community College in 1986 Buthelezi lived in his hometown of Springs, studying art privately with artist Lucky Moema. Buthelezi received lessons in perspective and drawing from Moema in exchange for bread and tea. Eventually he made his way to Johannesburg, where he began studying at Funda.
Buthelezi originally started as a part-time student who wanted to be a sculptor. At the centre, however, he met Charles Nkosi, who convinced Buthelezi to try out other media, including drawing and painting. In 1989 Buthelezi won his first prize, the top honour in a drawing and design competition hosted by South African Breweries.
Determined to be an artist, he enrolled at Funda full-time. Buthelezi had to look for alternative materials, because he couldnt afford to buy expensive paints and canvases. In a workshop with a Swiss artist who used plastic as canvas for his artworks Buthelezi got his initial inspiration. His idea was to use plastic not only as a canvas but also to paint with this cheap material one can find everywhere. Soon he found himself experimenting with a heat gun, applying the melted material onto a black plastic background. In that year he received best marks for his plastic works and from then on he continuously improved his technique- making a virtue out of necessity. Buthelezi has consulted the Plastics Federation of South Africa on the technical and health considerations of using plastic.
Buthelezi was hired as a part-time lecturer at Funda in 1990. In 1992 Buthelezi completed his courses. He continued teaching part-time and ultimately became a member of the full-time teaching staff, as he currently remains. Since then he has also received commissions and several prizes in addition to SA Breweries, he has won awards from Development Bank of Southern Africa, Martel V.O., and Momentum Life, to name a few. In 2007 Buthelezi was a semi-finalist for the Sasol Wax Art Award and in 2010 he was nominated as a top ten finalist for the Absolut VISI Designer of the year award.
Buthelezi’s recycling of plastics into artworks is a symbol of hope in this new age. Buthelezi was presented with the Weekly Mail and Guardian Green Trust Award for his commitment and contributions to the environment. He was honoured by the judges for his social conscience, creativity and sheer hard work.

Celebrating 100 Years of the Coca-Cola Glass Bottle Exhibition – Tony (Nozipho) Gum


Pin-up - Black Coca Cola Series, Edition: 2/10, Fuji crystal archival print. Dibond mounted, 70 x 81cm.

Pin-up – Black Coca Cola Series, Edition: 2/10, Fuji crystal archival print. Dibond mounted, 70 x 81cm. Image Copyright Tony (Nozipho)Gum

Tony Gum, a young black woman artist from Langa in the Western Cape. Her decision to fuse a specific brand – Coca Cola – with an array of projected identities, ranging from the matriarch in traditional Xhosa costume to the West End Playboy Bunny, marks a newly minted ironic and playful take on the ubiquitous and morbid preoccupation with Identity Politics. In Tony Gum’s case it is the fusion of the African exotic, the ethnic traditional, the Afropolitan urban chic, and the iconic Bunny Girl which allows for a new framework, or prism, through which to see contemporary African art.

All importantly, it is Tony Gum’s wit, her lightness and playful irony which sets the work apart for therein we find no grim exploitation of a historical pain, no entitled supremacist black youth culture, no iconic imprisoning of black beauty, and no gratuitous play with emptiness. Rather, Tony Gum seems to have freed herself from a history of oppression – be it racial, cultural, or sexual – and, seemingly single-handedly, recreated herself as a mercurial aesthetic intelligence. Her work, remarkably sophisticated for someone so young, harks back to the genius of Moshekwa Langa, for Tony Gum, even as she plays fast-and-loose with the most ubiquitous and toxic imperial brand, is nevertheless giving us something fresh. Acknowledged by Art South Africa as a ‘Bright Young Thing’, Tony Gum seems set to make a major contribution to the booming Contemporary African Market. She is the new ‘plastiglomerate’ – the artist best able to splice the mortal with the synthetic, high art and trash, the better to capture the radio-active buzz of this art moment.

Artists Statement

Tony Gum’s fresh and energetic imagery has attracted national attention. With gusto she is producing a new prism With which to view African contemporary art and culture. Her latest project Black Coca – Cola features an array of projected identities that she has beautifully spliced together with the global iconic Coke brand. Coke has conventionally
been famous for their pop culture branding and Gum has successfully melded the pop feel with dynamic Xhosa garb, African exotic’, ‘Afropolitan’ urban chic and the archetypal ‘Bunny Girl’. Through the power of the visual, Gum aims to show a pathway to embracing Western brands, while remaining true and proud of one’s heritage. Her inspiration and
message behind the Black Coca-Cola series, is creating an African representative for the popular beverage, giving the coke brand a uniquely African feel. Her imagery creates an intimate link between the brand and the ‘people’. Gum is proud of her African heritage, but she is equally happy to fuse with Western brands, she has the best of both worlds

text by Christopher Moller Gallery