For Expo Chicago 2023, WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to share a solo presentation of works by 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.

Athi-Patra Ruga’s most recent solo exhibition, In Travesti was presented at the Eva Presenhuber Gallery in New York. Other recent exhibitions and performances include: iiNyanga Zonyaka, Norval Foundation, Cape Town; Africa Unlearn What you have learned, Aros Museum, Denmark, Kiss My Genders, Haywood Gallery, London; Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions, Somerset House, London; 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.

He was recently included in the 2019 Locarno Academy and The 66th Flaherty Film Seminar. His work is also featured in the new Phaidon publication African Artists 1882-NOW, as well as Into the Black Fantastic, and Black Artists Shaping the World, both published by Thames and Hudson.

Ruga’s work is held in internationally renowned public collections, including: The Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Washington DC; Museion – Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano Italy; Foundation Louis Vuitton collection, Paris, France; Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Geneva, Switzerland; CAAC – Pigozzi Collection; Homestead collection; The Wedge Collection; and IZIKO South African Museum, Cape Town as well as numerous significant private collections.