woman crush wednesday with @atongatem

Simpsons screenshots? Check. Amazing art? Check. Babin’ selfies? Check.

by Ingrid Kesa
13 April 2016, 3:27am

Atong Atem is an emerging Melbourne-based artist and fine art photographer who has already collected an impressive set of fans. Originally from Sudan she migrated with her family to Australia as a refugee when she was six and spent the rest of her childhood on NSW's Central Coast. Her work explores colonialism, race, gender and identity through photography, drawing, mixed media and more.

She's been on our radar for a while now; last year i-D featured her studio portraits focussing on Third Culture Kids. We're also digging her digitally painted archival photos. Considering her visual skills, it's no surprise that Atong has a killer Instagram feed. Packed with photos of friends and family, great fashion, pop culture perfection and art she's definitely worth a follow.


Instagram handle?

I've never had a nickname that stuck, but my mum almost named me Tufaha which is Arabic for apple.

Where are you right now?
I'm in the living room of my family home on the central coast watching the Food Network with my little sister.

What do you do for work?
I write and make art for work!

What do you do for fun?
I love to dance, especially with other folks who make good dance partners.

Who was your hero in high school?
In high school I was obsessed with Henry Miller and spent a lot of time trying to justify how horrible a person he was. And Celine Dion—low key still love her though.

Who is your hero now?
Eartha Kitt, Josephine Baker and Nina Simone are my consistent hero triad.

Who are the members of your dream girl gang?
Eartha Kitt, Josephine Baker and Nina Simone. Just imagine that!

What lyric sums you up?
"Work ,work, work, work, work, work" from Work by Robyn "Rihanna" Fenty.

What song will forever put you in a good mood?
Johnny by Yemi Alade! It's guaranteed to run the dance floor with stank face when it comes on.

What do you cook when you want to impress someone?
PIE! I make all my besties pies when I wanna show affection. My kangaroo pie is so far my best but I can do 'em vego too.

What's your dream pet?
My friends and I were just thinking how strange hippos are; I'd love to have a pet hippo or more realistically a silly, happy puppy.

What's something that you're passionate about?
I think recently I've become more public about some of the things I'm passionate about like race and gender politics, being pro Indigenous and what solidarity means and looks like.

What TV show will you never get sick of?
Adventure Time, The X-Files, Regular Show and Jane the Virgin in that order.

What's your secret party trick?
I sleep really, really silently and still.

If you had to wear one label for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would definitely wear Mat Lee forever; his designs are incredibly versatile but without losing that "art-piece" element that makes them so attractive.

What do you love about the internet?
I love the global connections the internet allows us to have, and also the fairly subversive nature of something so new and constantly evolving. It's a space that is, I guess, as equally confronting as it is supportive. I guess the internet is basically a vacuum of potential which is what makes it so exciting and terrifying.

When did you join Instagram?
298 photos ago which must be a few years for sure.

Describe your Instagram feed?
My personal feed is 15 percent selfies, 50 percent photos of my friends, 20 percent my art and 15 percent Simpsons screenshots.

Who inspires you?
I'm lucky to be surrounded by some amazing, amazing artists in Melbourne including Arika Waulu and Duaa Mahmoud.

What creative projects are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on a lot of different things at the moment but I am most excited about a couple of exhibitions coming up in May—Ua numi le fau, a group show curated by Léuli Eshraghi, at Gertrude Contemporary opening May 6th and a group show for Nataal at Red Hooks Labs in New York in May.

Who are your three favourite people to follow on Instagram?
My little sister @nancyatem because she's ridiculously beautiful, @bebeautifulla because black women are everything and @junglepussy because she's basically my sister.

Where else can we find you online?
I'm on Tumblr and Twitter as @atongatem for both.

Country or city?

Britney or Beyonce?
Queen Bey.

Health food or junk food?
Healthy junk food!

Heels or sneakers?

Early mornings or late nights?
Late nights that bleed into early mornings.

Dating or hanging out?
Hanging out.

Hotels or camping?


Text Ingrid Kesa
Images via Instagram

Atong Atem