Born in 1984, Athi-Patra Ruga is a South African artist who uses performance, photography, video, textiles and printmaking to explore notions of utopia and dystopia, material and memory. Ruga confronts and challenges the colonial history of South Africa by imagining an idealized future that incorporates highly constructed cityscapes and glamorous interpretations of spiritual and celebrity figures. In addition, his work also explores the body in relation to sensuality, culture, and ideology. So, themes such as sexuality, HIV/AIDS, African culture, and the place of queerness within post-apartheid South Africa also permeate his work.
Looking at the piece ‘Touched by an Angel’ in 2014, Ruga often works in the mediums of tapestry and embroidery and draws heavily from the iconography of the imaginary utopia he calls Azania. This utopian imagery also suggests itself in the 2014 multimedia series ‘Future White Women of Azania’, which explores the vast possibilities of a decolonized Africa.
The presence of Ruga’s work in South Africa’s pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale reinforces his status as a highly distinguished South African artist. His work has also been included in exhibitions for the Louis Vuitton Foundation, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art and the Smithsonian National Museum.