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Athi-Patra Ruga

Updated: Mar 10, 2019




Artist 83 Athi-Patra Ruga African Utopia Mixed Media


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.


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.


He successfully challenges the heteronormative social construction of African history and knowledge, including the critique of its dogmatic control on the continent






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