Artist: Athi-Patra Ruga
Title: Sibambiso Year: 2017
Medium: Wool and thread on tapestry canvas
Dimension: 200 x 200 cm
Athi-Patra Ruga (born 1984) is a South African artist who uses performance, video, textiles, and printmaking to explore notions of utopia and dystopia, material and memory. His work explores the body in relation to sensuality, culture, and ideology, often creating cultural hybrids. Themes such as sexuality, HIV/AIDS, African culture, and the place of queerness within post-apartheid South Africa also permeate his work. Ruga was recently included in the Phaidon book Younger Than Jesus, a directory of over 500 of the world’s best artists under the age of 33. In 2014 he presented at Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town. Ruga’s work has been purchased by numerous public and private collections, including the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa permanent collection, Iziko South African National Gallery, Museion – Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, in Bolzano Italy, and the CAAC – Pigozzi Collection.
Queens in Exile is about telling better stories. This isn’t simply a revisionist exercise, patching up inconvenient holes in the historical record. Instead, Ruga excavates collective memory and exclusionary national myth to rebuild both in wholly new shapes – to make a world where the exiled can reign. The result is a land of many queens, lost and found and forgotten.
The culmination of a three year long project and a continuation of his critically acclaimed exhibition The Future White Woman of Azania Saga in 2014, Ruga presents the viewer with a ambitious and immersive exhibition over three floors including Over the Rainbow a large scale film projection that can best be described as an electrifying experience. The bulk of the exhibition is made up of exquisitely hand embroidered petit point tapestries which unequivocally proclaim Ruga as a master of his chosen medium.
Returning from an extended run at the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris, South African audiences should not miss this opportunity to see an internationally acclaimed artist at the height of his powers.
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.