Athi-Patra Ruga


Athi-Patra Ruga is one of the few artists working in South Africa today whose work has adopted the trope of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga creates alternative identities and uses these avatars as a way to parody and critique the existing political and social status quo. Ruga’s artistic approach of creating myths and alternate realities is in some way an attempt to view the traumas of the last 200 years of colonial history from a place of detachment – at a farsighted distance where wounds can be contemplated outside of personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.

The philosophical allure and allegorical value of utopia has been central to Ruga’s practice. His construction of a mythical metaverse populated by characters which he has created and depicted in his work have allowed Ruga to create an interesting space of self reflexivity in which political, cultural and social systems can be critiqued and parodied.

Ruga has used his utopia as a lens to process the fraught history of a colonial past, to critique the present and propose a possible humanist vision for the future.

Recent exhibitions and performances include: Art Afrique, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris; Over the Rainbow, Performa 17, New York; Women’s Work, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town; An Age of Our Own Making, Holbaek, Denmark; Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community, Boston Centre for the Arts, Boston; AFRICA: Architecture, Culture and Identity at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Imaginary Fact at the South African Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale; African Odysseys at The Brass Artscape in Brussels; Public Intimacy at the SFMOMA, San Francisco; The Film Will Always Be You: South African Artists on Screen at the Tate Modern in London; and Making Africa at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

His works form part of Private, Public and Museum Collections here and abroad, namely: The Zeitz MOCCA ; Museion – Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano Italy; CAAC – Pigozzi Collection ; The Wedge Collection, IZIKO South African National Gallery.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2017 Queens in Exile 2014-2017 - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
2016 Athi-Patra Ruga, Bass Museum of Art, Miami
2015 The Elder of Azania, Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
A Land Without A People… For A People Without A Land, In Situ, Paris
2014 The Future White Women of Azania Saga - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
2012 Ilulwane, Solo Presentation at Long Street Baths, Cape Town
2011 Ilulwane Performa 11, New York City, New York
2010 Teeth are the Only Bones that Show, WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
The Body In Question IV: La Momma Morta, YOUNG BLACKMAN, Cape Town
Athi Patra Ruga: The Works, FRED Gallery, London, England
2009 Mister Floating Signifier and the Deadboyz, WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
After He Left, YOUNG BLACKMAN, Cape Town
2008 ..of bugchasers and watusi faghags, Art Extra, Johannesburg

Selected Group Exhibitions

2017 Everyday Anomaly - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
Art Afrique, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris
2016 Women's Work, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town
An Age of Our Own Making, Holbaek, Denmark
Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community, Boston Centre for the Arts, Boston
2015 AFRICA: Architecture, Culture and Identity, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Louisiana
The Film Will Always Be You: South African Artists on Screen, Tate Modern, London
The Elder of Azania, Solo Performance at the Johannesburg Pavilion, 56th La Biennale di Venezia, Venice
2015 Joburg Art Fair - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg
Broken English, Tyburn Gallery, London
Studio: The Lives and Works of South African Artists, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Foreign Bodies - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
Queer Threads, Leslie & Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York
Lumières d'Afriques, Theatre National De Chaillot, Paris
Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
2014 African Odysseys, The Brass Artscape, Brussels
PRÓXIMO FUTURO / NEXT FUTURE, Programa Gulbenkian de Cultura Contemporânea, Lisbon, Portugal
Uncertain Terms - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
Public Intimacy, SFMOMA, San Francisco
Brave New World...20 Years of Democracy, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town
2013 Imaginary Fact, 55th La Biennale di Venezia, South African Pavillion, Venice
Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg
Between the Lines, Braunschweig University of Art, Berlin
Films for Peace , Screened Worldwide including South Africa, Paris, London, New York, Sydney
Sharp Sharp, Johannesburg, Gaite Lyrique, Paris
The Beautyful Ones, Galerie Nolan Judin, Berlin
2012 Making Way, in collaboration with Mikhael Subotzky, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
Neither Man Nor Stone, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Under a Tinsel Sun, The III Moscow International Biennale For Young Art, Moscow, Russia
A SHOT IN THE ARSE, The Michaelis Gallery, Cape Town
2011 Living as Form Exhibition, New York
A Tribute to Photography, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan, Italy
BECOMING: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina, USA
2010 X HOMES, Performance Art Series, Johannesburg
Africa, Assume Art Position, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan, Italy
DADA South?, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town
For Those Who Live in It - Pop culture Politics and Strong Voices, MU Foundation, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
From Pierneef to Gugulective, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town
2009 Pret a Partager (More than the sum of its parts), IFA Gallery, Stuttgart, Germany
Big Wednesday, WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
Spot on Dak’Art
2008 Retrospective, IFA Gallery, Berlin, Germany
Infecting the City, Cape Town CBD
A Life Less Ordinary; Performance and Display in South African Art, Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham, UK
Beauty and Pleasure in Contemporary South African Art, Stenersen Museet, Oslo, Norway
2008 The Trickster, Art Extra, Johannesburg
Upstairs/Downstairs, Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town
Peripheral Vision and Collective Body, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, Italy
Disguise: The Art of Attracting and Deflecting Attention, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town

Selected Publications

2014      F.W.W.O.A SAGA
2012      The Works 2006-2013