Photography by Marcia Elizabeth

12 Womxn changing the game

To be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.

―     bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism    


This Womxn’s month as we reflect on a notion that is both so vital yet so patronising we need to use it to our gain fellow femmes. Though the notion of Womxn’s day or Womxn’s month is entirely problematic and womxn should essentially be honoured always, let’s use this stage to uplift one another in our efforts. Here, the womxn of Bubblegum Club have selected 12 womxn we look up to and that we feel are under celebrated. Join us in honouring them, us, every womxn, every day. Not just tomorrow or this month.

Tammi Mbambo

The multidisciplinarian is most well known for her makeup artistry, however, she expresses herself creatively as a painter, an installation artists and a video artist in addition to this. It must be understood that makeup is not a separate facet of her artistic expression but is intertwined with the thematics of her fine art practice. Her makeup artistry draws on Drag culture, the fantastical and the surreal. “Growing up, I really wished I had more examples of black queer South African kids creating fresh, barrier-breaking and conceptually rich make up looks and aesthetics in general.” Speaking about her inspiration she shares, “I am inspired greatly by Queer theory and writing. I am a huge drag stan – I have my own drag persona, actually. I’m also greatly influenced by the concept of Black Radical Imagination and using educated hope and queer, feminist methodologies to get to where I want to be; to move towards my own definitions of freedom, working against forces that don’t want people like me to radically succeed.”

Gemma Hart

Co-curating through curation

A curator, writer and facilitator, Gemma works within cultural practice. Her particular interest lay in ways of curating with a specific focus on immersive exhibition making that simultaneously investigates the power dynamics of socially constructed space. She elaborates by stating, “My current research examines the persistent legacy of colonial ideology which continues to haunt museums – thinking through how these spaces can exist in alternate ways and offer more in the contemporary moment.” With accessibility to wider audiences at hart, she views art as a medium that should “live and breathe”. The social and political comes into play as well as co-creation with artist and audience. “Display is deeply ideological – with it you have the power to shape people’s imagination. Thus, one must tread with caution, curiosity and consideration.” Gemma highlights her curation of the Future 76 BBZ(2018) exhibition and residency in partnership with Bubblegum Club and the support of Marcia Elizabeth and Christa Dee as a remarkable milestone in her career. At present, she is co-curating Johannesburg // Fragmenting Space and Time withNkgopoleng Moloi in partnership with Underline in addition to completing her MA in Contemporary Curatorial Practice at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Helena Uambembe

A recent recipient of the David Koloane Award, Helena describes her scope of work as falling into performance, video, photography and printmaking and condenses this into the description of ‘fine artist’. Her expression aims to archive trauma and collective memory as an exercise in personal and collective healing. The 32 Battalion of which her father formed a part, becomes a central theme as she works to undo stereotypes surrounding the Battalion and the people of Pomfret. Taking inspiration from music and language Helena expresses that as a part of her practice she is currently researching the poetry and music of the liberation struggle of Angola and post-independence. Her interest is further peaked by music as a medium that captures memory. In addition to her personal work Helena forms a part of the collective Kutala Chopeto with fine artist Teresa Firmino. Speaking to young womxn who are interested in pursuing a similar career path to her she shares, “Just carry on doing what you do, be authentic and honest; people will catch up to you.

Danijela Cook

Danijela is an artist, illustrator, curator, creative director as well as a member of KOP and has a particular interest in street and youth culture. On the importance of her work she shares, “I believe that all creative contributions are valuable to our community. Thus I have made efforts to create platform(s) in which my contemporary peers can nurture their individual crafts and emerge as more experienced artists.” In the process of planning another Bringing the Gap exhibition with Amira Shariff, Danijela is a womxn to keep your eyes on.

Amira Shariff

creator and curator of ideas, platforms and spaces

With a multitude of talents, Amira uses her natural inclination for creativity to “create spaces and build ideas”. Her practice revolves around photography, curation and creative direction. Fittingly, she forms a part of collectives such as KOP and BEEND. Interested in what she refers to as an “ongoing creative dialogue” her contributions are aimed at nurturing the work and ideas of emerging practitioners in the field. Reflecting on her work, she reveals that the greatest moment in her budding artistic practice has been co-directing Bringing the Gap with Danijela Cook at Gallery MOMO. Voices like Amira’s in the creative dome are of particular relevance as it is seldom that we see young practitioners working towards furthering the progress of their peers–a nurturing voice in the concrete city.

Lebogang Tlhako

After seeing Musa Nxumalo’s Alternative Kidz exhibition in 2008. I decided to study photography. In 2009 I enrolled at the Market Photo Workshop and have been marrying my interest in the image and the sartorial consciousness since then.

From Katlehong, analogue photographer Lebogang works with notions of portraiture, fashion and memory. “I want to tell stories based on how I grew up in the township, how we speak ko kasi so that the younger generation have some sort of archive of how rich and beautiful it is to live in such a diverse community,” she shares. Currently she is working on a collaboration with Nonzuzo Gxekwa investigating ideas relating to contemporary African photography with a specific focus on the documentary medium.

To find out more about Lebogang’s work click here.

Bahiyya Khan

Age and cry and design video games

Bahiyya Khan is a video game designer who is best known for the recent release of her game, after HOURS for which she won the IGF (Independent Games Festival) award. She is the first woman of colour from Africa and the first Muslim person to have been a recipient of this award. Speaking to the importance of her work she expresses, “diversity is always important and valuable and as a Muslim South African WoC, I always bring it. But I am much more than the factors which marginalise me…” Currently Bahiyya is working towards getting after HOURS up on Steam. She leaves us with this thought womxn, “Literally shoot your shot all the time and be nice to other women. Also educate the fuck out of yourself however you can. Learn so much and always knowledge drop in front of men to intimidate them.”

To find out more about after HOURS read up about it here.

Allyssa Herman

The knowledge that is produced in the domestic space amongst women is the focus of installation artist Allyssa’s practice. “It is very specific to my grandmother’s domestic space, particularly the kitchen table and a porcelain dog that she passed down to me.” With the intent to create inviting spaces with her installations, Allyssa shares that she wants people to feel “at home in her work”. Earlier this year Allyssa had a solo show at Kalashnikovv Gallery titledJou ma se Kombuis.

She shares her creative journey by stating, “Growing up my mom was very into doing little crafty things with me, so that definitely sparked my interest, then I applied for fine art at with and got in. And yeah through that I started becoming really fascinated with how the women’s body functions in the domestic space and just started making work about it and ended up with my work in TPO and then WAM.”

Savon Matjane

If you’re ever at Kitcheners and notice the entire crowd is Shazam-ing the song, DJ Hot Athena is probably playing. Matjane, who uses “Hot Athena” as her DJ name, is a Joburg-based fashion student, aspiring artist and burgeoning DJ. Matjane is unique, with a sense of style and music taste that not only makes you look twice but stays burned in your brain. On top of studying, gaining her makeup qualifications and playing gigs at Kop, Cerebral and on radio: Matjane is constantly pushing herself to become a better creative. Her creativity is inspired by her world. “Something that inspires me deeply is black people, black art and black culture in all of its variations around the globe.” She says. “I think that descending from Africa is a blessing in the life anyone who wants to devote themselves to anything that demands creativity or considered to be a part of the creative industry”.

Miya Twala

From Katlehong to the world: Twala describes herself as a “creator, creating things”. It’s a perfect description. Miya is a musician, creative director and fashion ingénue. She has a fashion film called Nomasonto: Sunday’s Best under her belt, another fashion film in the works and an EP on the way. Twala is steadily making a name for herself, with the likes of Vogue Italia and Mail & Guardian taking note of her. Despite these big features, Twala got her start in the everyday. “I’ve always liked dressing up and taking pictures. My following started growing, I wanted to do more than just taking pretty pictures then started creating actual projects”. It’s everyday things that still inspire her now and keep her rooted. “The people I interact with inspire how I work and how I view life”. With a circle of friends as just creative as her, Twala has a goldmine to draw inspiration from.

Pelonomi Moiloa

Moiloa is from “a house atop the highest hill in Kensington”. Maybe living atop that high hill is what inspired her to keep aiming high her entire life. Moiloa is the image of diversity. She is a trained data scientist, doing activist work for fairness in access to machine learning. Moiloa also sings and co-owns a succulent business called Tlholego with her father. She can sum up her journey to where she is now in simple terms. “I was born capable, black and womxn” she says. “And then I studied damn hard”. Moiloa is working hard at making the tech world more accessible to the rest of the world, putting her skills into creating a self proficient, computational thinking-based program. Her hard work in tech comes from knowing that that world wasn’t made for people that look like her.  “I am obliged to be that change and I like to think that’s a good thing.” She says “Also, the machine take over of the world is lot more subtle than sci-fi movies have portrayed. I like to think I’m helping the world prepare for it, not just my community.

Liziwe Kwanini

Kwanini is a product of Joburg, through and through. Kwanini (lovingly known as ‘Mamthug’) has been a key player in the scene for a long time now. Kwanini studied BCom finance and worked as an ‘employee benefits consultant’: a non-creative path that has made her instrumental in connecting the corporate world to the Joburg art scene. Kwanini identifies herself as a storyteller and content creator, saying “I believe my magic lies in the ability to connect with space and maintain healthy creative relationships”. She elaborates “I’m the best version of myself when I collaborate people with unusual experiences.” The best version of herself comes out often. On top of curating and DJing, she has hosted her own Touch Talk series called ‘A Thugs Survival Guide’ and narrated the fashion film Nomasonto: Sunday’s Best. Her path is one that feels incredibly unique. For those looking to follow in her footsteps, she says “create even when no one is looking. Work on yourself and your talent tirelessly not just to become a better creative but better human being as well.”


Photography: Marcia Elizabeth

Creative Direction: Marcia Elizabeth and Natalie Paneng

Produced by: Malaika Eyoh

Cover Features

Latest Posts

Bubblegum Club TV

Get our newsletter straight to your mailbox