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 have been central to Ruga’s practice. His construction of a mythical metaverse populated by characters which he has created and depicted in his work has 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, critique the present, and propose a possible humanist vision for the future.
Recent projects include Ruga’s collaboration with Dior on designing two handbags for the fourth edition of the Lady Dior Art Bag. Ruga is also the co-founder of Victory of the Word, a fundraising and development project in support of the historic Lovedale Printing Press in Alice, Eastern Cape, as well as the Artistic Director of BODYLAND, an incubator residency for artists held in the Amathole Village, Hogsback.
His works form part of Private, Public, and Museum Collections in South Africa and abroad, namely: the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Washington DC; the Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Geneva; The Zeitz MOCCA, Cape Town; Museion – Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano Italy; CAAC – Pigozzi Collection; The Wedge Collection; and the IZIKO South African National Gallery.