Thursday, January 22, 2015

VOLTA10 Basel NY: Whatiftheworld Presents Athi-Patra Ruga

WHATIFTHEWORLD/ at Volta 10 Basel

WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present new work by Athi-Patra Ruga, Cameron Platter and Dan Halter at booth B2 at VOLTA10 in Basel, Switzerland from 16 to 21 June.
VOLTA is Basel’s renowned platform for presenting the vision of contemporary art galleries of global prestige whose artists represent new and relevant positions for curators and collectors alike.
Conceived to bridge a gap between Basel’s pre-existing fairs, VOLTA showcases galleries – whether young or mature – that choose to work with the most exciting emerging artists. These galleries must keep deeply meaningful connections with their artists and follow them throughout their careers. In turn, select galleries exhibit in the airy rotunda surroundings of Basel’s Markthalle, elevating their own platforms for an experience mutually beneficial to fair visitors and the galleries alike.
For further information on VOLTA10, please click here.
After the participation at VOLTA10 in Basel, Switzerland from 16 to 21 June, WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to announce the very successful outcome with almost all of Athi-Patra Ruga’s works being sold. Ruga’s solo representation at VOLTA10 also received international museum exhibition interest, including a private foundation in New York.
For further information, please read this article
VOLTA was founded in Basel in 2005 by dealers Kavi Gupta (Chicago), Ulrich Voges (Frankfurt), and Friedrich Loock (Berlin).
A full list of exhibitors can be viewed below or on their website


Born 1984 in Umtata, South Africa

Athi-Patra Ruga is a hastily ascending young artist whose approach is one of wilful confrontation, underpinned nonetheless by a finely honed aesthetic sensibility.

Athi Patra Ruga’s current work interrogates issues of sexuality, gender politics and the complexities of first and third world influences in contemporary South Africa. Drawing on a diverse range of influences from traditional Xhosa folklore, hip hop culture and the material aspirations of the rising South African black elite, Rugas work is manifest through textiles, video, performance, interventions, and photography.

Born in Umtata South Africa Athi Patra Ruga has had two solo exhibitions in South Africa and has exhibited extensively abroad, notably at the Dakar Biennale in Senegal, the 3rd Guangzhou triannle, Guangzhou China, the IFA Gallery Berlin and the Stenersent Museet in Norway.


VOLTA10 2011

Athi-Patra Ruga, ...Castrato as [the] Revolution, 2010, Wool and tapestry thread on tapestry canvas, 34 x 50 inch
Athi-Patra Ruga, First Blood, 2010, Wool and tapestry thread on tapestry canvas, 35 x 48 inch

Athi-Patra Ruga, Ilulwane... he’s not one of youz, 2010, Wool and tapestry thread on tapestry canvas, 34 x 51 inch 

VOLTA 2014

The Versatile Ivy in Exile
Wool and Thread on Tapestry Canvas
200 x 200 cm

The Sacred Versatile Queen and Autocrat of all Azania
Wool and Thread on Tapestry Canvas
388 x 191 cm
VOLTA10 2014: Ashleigh Mclean, director of Whatiftheworld (Cape Town) speaks to a collector in front of Athi-Patra Ruga's mural-sized tapestry The Versatile Queen and Autocrat of all Azania

The Future White Women of Azania: The Founding Myth, Venice Performance

Future White Women of Azania -  The Founding Myth

The Future White Woman of Azania is an ongoing series of performances first conceived in 2010 and evolving to engage new definitions of nationhood in relation to the autonomous body.

In the enactment of the site-specific work commissioned for the 55th Venice Biennale, the performance takes the form of an absurdist funerary procession. The participants are the ABODADE - the sisterhood order of Azania and the central protagonist - The Future White Woman.

“Azania, as a geographic location, is first described in 1stCentury  Greek records of navigation and trade , The Peryplus of the Erythrean Sea  and is thought to refer to a portion of the East and Southern African coast. The word Azania itself is thought to have been derived from an Arabic  word referring to the ‘dark-skinned inhabitants of Africa.’

Azania is then eulogised in  the black consciousness movement as a pre-colonial utopian black homeland- this Promised Land, referenced in struggle songs, political sermons and African Nationalist speeches. In  Cold War  pop culture , Marvel Comics used  Azania as a fictional backdrop to a Liberation story that bares a close resemblance to the situation that was Apartheid in Old South Africa …  so it is at once a mythical and faintly factual place/state that this performance unfolds… Who are the Azanians for what it’s worth ?  It is in this liminal state that the performance unfolds…“

Seeking to radically reimage the potential of Azania and its inhabitants, the performance questions the mythical place that we mourn for and asks who its future inhabitants may be. Using the “Nation-Finding  language of pomp and procession” , Ruga proposes a bold and iconoclastic  break with the past Utopian promise of the elders and instead presents us with a new potential and hybridity . 

HELLO? Paranoia much...

The Future White Women of Azania: The Trial, a performance art work by Athi-Patra Ruga.

Photos: Giovanna Zen
- See more at:

C& Interview: Pamella Dlungwana talks to Athi-Patra Ruga about his artistic and performative practice.

Interview LINK Click Here

Athi-Patra Ruga 'The Future White Women of Azania: The manifesto', 2012. Performance with costumes, props, lights and music, GIPCA Live Art Festival, Cape Town. Duration variable. Photo by Ashley Walters. Courtesy of the Artist and the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts.

"There is a need for me to constantly re-invent the self."

Our author Pamella Dlungwana talks to Athi-Patra Ruga about his artistic and performative practice.

Pamella Dlungwana: Is Athi-Patra a perpetual performance because you weren’t born and named such?
Athi-Patra Ruga: Okay, I was born Athenkosi Luphelele Ruga and I really hated my name. Not for any particular reason, it was just so long and so traumatic to have it and it was also an inconvenience to have people say my name, it would stunt conversation somehow. But that also served my purpose because I am a happy introvert. But Athi is a shorter name for Athenkosi. I remember that growing up I was quite a big kid and I used to dance a lot to music videos, I would record them, especially the dance hall music videos. I loved the dance hall queen Patra and instead of doing aerobics I would record her videos and emulate her moves. So my sister, my mother and niece started calling me Patra and so I slapped those two together and they sounded good. I thought that I could use them in whatever I did in the future, my future trade to create a brand and I think that a brand is a promise of good quality.
PD: So he’s a construct?
APR: It’s a construct; it’s a very deliberate, very telling construct. I think that it is a character in itself; it is me dealing with such a damned long name. It’s a testament to my need for constantly re-inventing myself. I think there is a need for my generation and for me to constantly re-invent the self. That’s why I call it a brand because it represents those things. There’s a moment where one can live with how they are defined by others and a moment where that needs to stop and the definition needs to come from the self. I think that’s why I keep it on and I think it’s also quite evident in the constant invention of the characters. I find it interesting that you brought that out, the construction of my name and the characters I perform.
Athi-Patra Ruga, Uzuko Wool, Thread & Artificial Flowers on Tapestry Canvas 200 x 180 cm
Athi-Patra Ruga, Uzuko
Wool, Thread & Artificial Flowers on Tapestry Canvas
200 x 180 cm
PD: One could take your being an artist as an accident of fashion, but when did you have your first mediation on becoming an artist?
APR: I think this is the first time I’ve been asked that. I went to a school that was very rugby, cadets and riffling focused but there were busses that bussed seniors to Belgravia Art School to attend art classes and I wanted to join them to escape these macho spaces. So I attended art school and high school at the same time. That is where my love for art began. Then Irma Stern came in, because people think that the Irma Stern works started when I started practicing as an artist but it was much earlier.
PD: So Irma Stern is a much earlier influence.
APR : Yes, I found an Irma Stern book and it influenced the way I painted, how I drafted and used color. So it was my color education and it was autodidactic because I was not satisfied with the art education I was getting. It revolved around the Laubschers with some mentions of the Sekotos, but no mention of contemporary art.
PD: And when did you first come across contemporary art?
APR: I do remember them [at school] rushing us through ‘Happenings’, a progeny of abstract expressionism and actionism. I did my first performance in early high school, where I used vintage Calvin Klein jeans I’d bought from a Salvation Army shop. I was discovering what Calvinism was and on my walks there was a Jehova’s Witnesses space and they had painted a whole wall white. I posted my jeans on that wall and declared I’d created a white Calvinist. It didn’t go down well with my teacher. It was the first time I used protest, a very passive-aggressive form, but still in a stylized way. So I had to devise graphic nuances that articulate the things that were irking me without getting a smack down. I think that’s the role that art plays with me, where everything gets refracted and a double game is played.
PD: What role does fashion play in your work?
APR: I dematerialized out of the idea of fashion, to an extent that it becomes not purely the fashion industry but becomes the medium, the design, it becomes problem solving and not raising questions the way art does. You walk into the studio and you don’t want cheese, you are there to solve problems and design works with me in that way. I love the fact that there’s emotiveness to it. Fashion is not about the objects that reapply themselves and ‘come back’. Fashion by definition is and depends on how you can fashion people. I believe that the design of it, the way it engineers a body is what is of interest to me and what links me to performance.
PD: Fashion is transience though …
APR: Yes, fashion comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to change.’ So the body becomes this thing that needs to be fashioned. You’ve got this medium that really needs a body to sit in a certain way if you’re wearing a certain cut and for the body to stand in a certain way. The fact that Xhosa women wear circle skirts to accentuate their hips and all of that, this is performance, this is fashion. These are two mediums working with ideas of perception and what comes out of that mixture is art because of its elementaries. This is how I decided to go to couture school; I could not speak about fashion without knowing about it.
PD: Do your characters precede the costume or  …
APR: I made clothes and they ended up assuming a sculptural, non-utilitarian aspect, as in wearing them. They ended up becoming almost soft sculptures and this was a point where I started wearing them because I wanted to put my neck on the chopping line. I wanted those clothes to be my great choreographer and I still believe that the costumes I wear are some kind of a choreographer that is beyond me because they deal with perception; they deal with how other people respond to me. At around the same time, Johannesburg’s inner city was undergoing gentrification, there were forced removals and I lived very close to where much of this was happening and this is where my first character, Miss Congo, was born because in Johannesburg you’re a sheep among wolves. At that time I was interested in procession, cleansing, performance, and ritual. Miss Congo went to a site in downtown Johannesburg where Gito Baloi was killed and had her first performance. Soon after that I went to Kinshasa, which was a dream come true really because she became Miss Congo in Kin and not a Troyville or Yeoville stereotype of who Miss Congo was
"Miss Congo", 2007, Videostills, 13:32 Min.  © Ruga
“Miss Congo”, 2007, Videostills, 13:32 Min.
© Ruga
PD: Did Miss Congo die? You’re in the habit of killing characters.
APR: No, she didn’t die, she didn’t suffer violence. She is one of those characters who live in a ‘perpetual other space’, with characters like Ilulwane. Injibaba died, Beiruth died, and the Futurewhitewomenofazania cannot die because it lives inside something that I’m constantly reaching for.
PD: Why do you let some of them live and others die?
APR: They are all heavily built into the narrative. Injibaba for instance started as a costume for which I longed to work with the notion of brutalism, which is a style of architecture, and I wanted to create a sculpture that addressed this. I bought wigs and created this brutalist shape. Also, I was on my way to Switzerland and on first arriving there, I was confronted with this campaign poster from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party showing the swiss flag with white sheep kicking a black sheep out. I went to Zurich to interact with black people there during Election Day. I was still in Switzerland and I wanted to kill the character because I couldn’t take her home with me.
The Night of the Long Knives I (2013). Image courtesy: Athi-Patra Ruga and Whatiftheworld Gallery
The Night of the Long Knives I (2013). Image courtesy: Athi-Patra Ruga and Whatiftheworld Gallery
PD: You’ve let the Futurewhitewomenofazania, your only pluralistic character, live outside the ‘perpetual other space’ reserved for her predecessors for much longer. Why?
APR: For the first time I wanted to bring a whole pantheism of characters, I wanted to bring a whole lot of characters, the need to assume different characters. The first time I wore the outfit, I felt this weight, liters of water weighing me down. I remember the catharsis that came after the amazing pain from the weight I was carrying to slowly being unweighted. I walk and I see this fear, people clutch their bags and this made me ask why people are weighed down by so much fear. FWWOA are a frivolous, light apparition that disturbs the burden of fear people have with black men, that interrogates the way black men treat black women in relation to white women and it also addresses the notion of white women as aspirational characters. The conversation is obviously ongoing.

Athi-Patra Rugas’ solo exhibition,The Future of White Women of Azania, Whatiftheworld, 27 November 2013 – 8 February 2014, Cape Town.
Ruga is also part of the group show PERHAPS ALL THE DRAGONS IN OUR LIVES ARE PRINCESSES – ON SOMATIC MORPHING, Savvy Contemporary, 19 January – 15 February 2014, Berlin.

Athi-Patra Ruga’s blog:

Pamella Dlungwana is a Cape Town based researcher and coordinator.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Standard Bank Young Artist Award 2015 - Athi-Patra Ruga (Performance Art) Vdieo

La Gaite Lyrique, Paris - Performance, (2013) Nov 3

PUMA: Films4Peace

Films4Peace commissioned by PUMA

“This video isn't just about peace in itself, it is more about the process of getting there. I wanted to create, rather solicit, a slow time-inspired unraveling of the identities -- something that fascinates me -- that weigh heavily on us and perhaps our daily performances as people. That is what the most recent avatar in my latest body of work does… in a loop. “The Future White Woman of Azania” is a character made up of liquid paint filled balloons and resembles a science diagram. I wanted the action to revolve around two acts: that of engaging in the catharsis of walking and that of “weeping” -- a purging that here is represented by the popping. Enter “The Flower of Azania“, who in stark contrast has the appearance of a gestating flower, accumulating scale and animation. Both these scenes are brought together by the gong that encourages an engagement with these two different movements that are both a good Purge.”- Athi-Patra Ruga, Cape Town 2013 (c)

About Films4Peace:

FILMS4PEACE is a short film commission curated by Mark Coetzee, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Zeitz MOCAA. This unique project features 27 of today’s most innovative contemporary artists visually interpreting the subject of peace.

These engaging works have been screened at hundreds of cultural and educational venues globally and seen by 19 million people.Film and video is now an integral part of art production. This exhibition of films4peace inaugurates a dedicated programme, the Zeitz MOCAA Centre for the Moving Image, that will focus specifically on cutting edge developments in, and discourses around the moving image.

In 2017 Zeitz MOCAA will move into the historic grain silo buildingatthe V&A Waterfront where the stateof the art Zeitz MOCAA Centre for the Moving Image is being constructed.

Athi-Patra Ruga is one of the 27 artists with video at this exhibition, stop by at Zietz MOCCAA from the 3rd of December 2014 to the 1st of February 2015.

Athi-Patra Ruga presents : THE F.W.W.O.A. Saga @ Whatiftheworld Solo Show

Wool, thread and artificial flowers on tapestry canvas
195 x 180 cm


Wool, and thread on tapestry canvas
190 x 180 cm



Wool, thread, glue and glitter on tapestry canvas

190 x 120 cm


Artificial flowers, glue on high density foam


Wool and thread on tapestry canvas

170 x 190 cm

LANDS OF AZANIA, 2014-2094

Thread on tapestry canvas

200 x 180 cm


Wool and thread on tapestry canvas

300 x 175 cm


Wool and thread on tapestry canvas

180 x 120 cm


Wool and thread on tapestry canvas

300 x 175cm


Wool on tapestry canvas

190 x 130 cm


Monday, December 2, 2013
Words by Malibongwe of SKATTIE WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?


I snapped these last week at Whatiftheworld at the opening of Athi’s new solo show. This one was a bit of a family affair so I’m not gonna go on and on about how mind-blowingly amazing it is to behold because some of y’all skeptic skatties are gonna assume I’m biased anyway. Thankfully the show does not at all need my help; it’s pretty fucking awesome. The pieces will be up until the 8th of Feb, so if you haven’t seen it yet I recommend you pay the gallery a visit. For those who might not be familiar with Athi’s technique; those are hand embroidered tapestries (obvs except the photos, stained glass piece and installation), and you need to do yourself a favour and stand in front of one to fully appreciate their awesomeness. For now though, enjoy the images.