Born in Umtata, South Africa in 1984 and lives and works in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Exploring the border-zones between fashion, performance and contemporary art, Athi-Patra Ruga makes work that exposes and subverts the body in relation to structure, ideology and politics. Bursting with eclectic multicultural references, carnal sensuality and a dislocated undercurrent of humor, his performances, videos, costumes and photographic images create a world where cultural identity is no longer determined by geographical origins, ancestry or biological disposition, but is increasingly becoming a hybrid construct. A Utopian counter-proposal to the sad dogma of the division between mind and body, sensuality and intelligence, pop culture, craft and fine art, his works expresses the eroticism of knowledge and reconciles the dream with experience.

Recent exhibitions include: Under a Tinsel Sun the main exhibition of the III Moscow International Biennale For Young Art; Making Way, in collaboration with Mikhael Subotzky at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa; Ilulwane, a solo performance at PERFORMA11 (NY) ;Imaginary Fact, 55th La Biennale di Venezia,South African Pavillion Venice [ Italy ] ; Beauty and Pleasure in Contemporary South African Art at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway; the Guangzhou Triennale in China; Ampersand at the Daimler Collection (Berlin); A Life Less Ordinary - Performance and Display in South African Art, (UK); For Those Who Live in It - Pop culture Politics and Strong Voices, MU (Holland); The Elder of Azania , YBCA/SFMOMA [San Francisco] and Dak?Art - Biennale of African Contemporary Art (Dakar).

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Solo exhibitions

Bass Museum, Miami Beach, US
Kunstraum Innsbruck, AT

A People without a Land... for a Land without a People, In Situ - fabienne leclerc, Paris, FR
The Eleder of Azania, Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Grahamstwon, ZA
The Elder of Azania, Théâtre national de Chaillot, Paris, FR
The Elder of Azania, the Johannesburg Pavilion, 56th La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, IT

The Future White Women of Azania Saga - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, ZA

Ilulwane, solo presentation at Long Street Baths, Cape Town, ZA

Ilulwane, solo presentation at Performa 11, New York City, New York, US

Athi-Patra Ruga - The Works, Solo Exhibition FRED Gallery, London, UK

Mister Floating Signifier and the Deadboyz, Solo Exhibition, Whatiftheworld / Gallery, Cape Town, ZA
After He Left, Solo Exhibition, YOUNG BLACKMAN, Cape Town, ZA

?of bugchasers and watusi faghags, Solo Exhibition, Art Extra, Johannesburg, South Africa

Group exhibitions

Art/Afrique, Le nouvel atelier, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, FR
Tous, des sang-mêlés, MAC VAL, FR
En toute modestie - Archipel Dirosa, Musée Internation des Arts Modestes (MIAM), Sète, FR
En marge, In Situ - fabienne lecerlc, Paris, FR

An Age of Our Own Making, Holbaek, DK
Women?s Work, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town, ZA


Joburg Art Fair - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, ZA
The Film Will Always Be You: South African Artists on Screen, Tate Modern, London, UK
AFRICA: Architecture, Culture and Identity, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Louisiana, US
Lumières d?Afriques, Theatre National De Chaillot, Paris, FR
Foreign Bodies - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, ZA
Queer Threads, Leslie & Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, US
Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, Guggenheim Bilbao, ES
Studio: The Lives and Works of South African Artists, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town, ZA
Odyssées Africaines, commissaire Marie-Ann Yemsi, Brass, centre culturel de Forest, BE

Public Intimacy : art and other ordinary acts in South Africa, SFMOMA, San Francisco, US

Films for Peace, Screened Worldwide including South Africa, Paris FR, London UK, New York US, Sydney AU
Sharp Sharp Johanesburg, Gaite Lyrique, Paris, FR
The Beautyful Ones, Galerie Nolan Judin, Berlin Imaginary Fact, 55th La Biennale di Venezia, South African Pavillion Venice, IT
Between the Lines, Braunschweig University of Art, Berlin, DE
Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Between the Lines, Braunschweig University of Art, Berlin, DE

A SHOT IN THE ARSE, The Michaelis Gallery, Cape Town, ZA
Under a Tinsel Sun, The III Moscow International Biennale For Young Art, Moscow, RU
Making Way, in collaboration with Mikhael Subotzky, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, ZA
Neither Man Nor Stone, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town, ZA

BECOMING: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina, US
Solo Presentation at VOLTA New York City, New York, US
A Tribute to Photography, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan, IT
Living as Form Exhibition, New York, US

From Pierneef to Gugulective, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, ZA
For Those Who Live in It - Pop culture Politics and Strong Voices, MU Foundation, Eindhoven, NL
DADA South?, South African National Gallery, Cape Town X HOMES, Performance Art Series, Johannesburg, ZA
The Body In Question IV: La Momma Morta, Solo Exhibition, YOUNG BLACKMAN, Cape Town, ZA
Africa, Assume Art Position !, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan, Italy

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 Infecting the City, Cape Town CBD, ZA
Spot on Dak?Art - 2008 Retrospective, IFA Gallery, Berlin, DE
Pret a Partager (More than the sum of its parts), IFA Gallery, Stuttgart, DE
Big Wednesday, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town, ZA

Peripheral Vision and Collective Body, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, IT
Big Wednesday, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town, ZA
Disguise: The art of attracting and deflecting attention, Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, ZA
Upstairs/Downstairs, Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa The Trickster, Art Extra, Johannesburg, ZA

Impossible Monsters, Art Extra, Johannesburg, ZA
Miss Congo, Performance in collaboration with Christopher Martin,Confluence 4.2, Design Indaba 10, Cape Town, ZA
?She is dancing in the Rain with her hand in the toaster?, Performance in collaboration with Christopher Martin, Michael Stevenson Contemporary, Cape Town, ZA
Inj?ibhabha Series, Jaundiced Arcadia / Tales of Counterpenetration, Progr zentrum fur kulturproduction, Bern, CH

Doc. no3, Die Naai Masjien - Miss Congo, Kinshasa, CD

Doc. no2, Die Naai Masjien- The Revenge of the 9ft Ma-Benz and her Toothless Taxi Kings, Elle New Talent Awards / South African Fashion Week, ZA

Doc. no1, Die Naai Masjien - Familie Fortuin, Elle New Talent Awards / South African Fashion Week, ZA


Decimation, Roskilde Festival, Copenhagen, DK
Over the rainbow, Performa NYC, US
Queens in exhile, Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor, Michigan, US


A.I.R., PROGR- Zentrum fur Kulturproduction. Bern, Switzerland. Kin Be Jozi, August House, Johannesburg, ZA

Scenographies Urbaines, Lingwala, Kinshasa, CD


"You should think of myth as a process, as a verb 'to myth', then you understand the function of it much better. [That is myth's] underlying function is to help us think about what human existence is like. But instead of closing meaning off, they push you and point you in different directions." Prof Mary Beard

Athi-Patra Ruga is one of a handful of artists, working in South Africa today, who has adopted the tropes of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga has always worked with creating alternative identities that sublimate marginalized experience into something strangely identifiable.
Amoungst many notable creations to date has been the ambivalently gendered Beiruth, whose name, with its middle-eastern associations, evoked ideas related to Edward Said's Orientalism and the Illuwane, again an ambivalent sexual entity rooted in Xhosa Mythology. But Ruga is now bringing a new set of mythical characters a little closer to home. In The Future White Women of Azania he is turning his attention to an idea intimately linked to the apartheid era's fiction of Azania 'a Southern African decolonialised arcadia. It is a myth that perhaps seems almost less attainable now than when the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) appropriated the name in 1965 as the signifier of an ideal future South Africa' then at least was a time to dream more optimistically largely because the idea seemed so infinitely remote.
But Ruga, in his imaginings of Azania, has stuck closer to the original myth, situating it in Eastern Africa as the Roman, Pliny the Elder, did in the first written record of the name. Here Ruga in his map The Lands of Azania (2014-2094) has created lands suggestive of sin, of decadence and current politics. Countries named Palestine, Sodom, Kuntistan, Zwartheid and Nunubia are lands that reference pre-colonial, colonial and biblical regions with all their negative and politically disquieting associations. However, in what seems like something of a response to the 'politically' embroidered maps of the Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti, Ruga infers that the politicization of words are in a sense prior to the constructed ideology of the nation state. What is more Azania is a region of tropical chromatic colours, which is populated with characters whose identities are in a state of transformation. At the centre of the panoply of these figures stands The Future White Woman whose racial metamorphosis, amongst a cocoon of multi-coloured balloons, suggests something disturbing, something that questions the processes of a problematic cultural assimilation. And it is here that the veracity of the myth of a future arcadia is being disputed if not entirely rejected. To be sure, unlike Barthes's suggestion in his essay 'Myth Today', Ruga is not creating myth in an act that depoliticizes, simplifying form in order to perpetuate the idea of an erroneous future 'good society'. Instead, placing himself in amongst the characters in a lavish self portrait Ruga imagines himself into the space of the clown or jester (much like the Rococo painter Watteau did in his painting 'Giles'), into the space of interpreter as well as a cultural product of the forces outside of his own control.

Ruga's Azania is a world of confusing transformations whose references are Rococo and its more modern derivative Pop. But whatever future this myth is foreshadowing, with its wealth, its tropical backdrop, its complicated and confusing identities, it is not a place of peaceful harmony - or at least not one that is easily recognizable. As Ruga adumbrated at a recent studio visit, his generation's artistic approach of creating myths or alternative realities is in some ways an attempt to situate the traumas of the last 200 years in a place of detachment. That is to say at a farsighted distance where their wounds can be contemplated outside of the usual personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.