by Koyo Kouoh
(translated from the original French text by Sandrine Micossé)
The period of the celebration of Abraham’s sacrifice, also called the holiday of the sheep, Eid el Kebir or Tabaski (in Senegal) is a time that attracts and captivates non-Muslim visitors in Dakar. The City transforms itself into a giant sheep market. The public spaces become vending areas.
Athi-Patra Ruga is the second artist with whom I am working who immediately got inspired by this ambiance and environment to create a performance piece in-situ. Here Patra Ruga’s performance revolves entirely around self affirmation – towards others as well as towards oneself. Ruga is a black man, a black South African man, a black overtly homosexual man. He draws from this state, to create the matrix of his multiform oevre.
Athi-Patra Ruga’s work includes performance, video, photography, installation and fashion. He is feeding on his personal experience and is motivated by breaking the rules and norms established in society as well as artistic practice. His work la tête du prophète presented in the streets of Dakar works within these realms and he offers himself to the Senegalese society. In this work a living human head, his own, is rising from a hole cut into the centre of a table, offering a mix of fruits and vegetables. This table is being placed along side the sheep vending spaces that have been installed for the festival in different corners of the city.
Athi-Patra Ruga is offering himself to the sheep and to the looks of baffled by passers. The audience is impressed by the serenity and natural ease with which the artist delivers himself to the appetite of the sheep who are happy to be fed such delicious food . In a discussion, Athi-Patra Ruga told me that he always inquires about the situation of homosexuality . Wherever he goes. Knowing of strong homophobic tendencies in Senegal the artist wishes to offer himself just like a sheep to remove the sins of Senegalese society. The sin in this case becomes homophobia and not homosexuality.
© Athi-Patra Ruga and studio