Athi-Patra Ruga | This Future Myth Sublimated In 2D

In eras past they were considered of higher standing and more precious than painting or sculpture. According to a recent New York Times article tapestries are making a ‘comeback.’

This century they hang within the exhibition rooms and galleries of the Pompidou Center and the Gagosian Gallery, and notably within the halls of the first ever triennial of Fiber Arts in China, held this past September.

© Athi-Patra Ruga. UnoZuko, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town.


Cape Town based artist Athi-Patra Ruga has been working with the ‘neo craft’ since 2008; his elaborate, adventurous tapestries capturing story lines from his performance practice. As he told me during a recent studio visit, the tapestries  ‘insert my performance into the 2D landscape.’

Ruga achieves this so successfully, that the majority of his tapestry canvases in The Future White Women of Azania Saga,  his latest solo show that opened two weeks ago in Cape Town, have already been bought up. His technicolour medleys are masterfully embroidered tales that sublimate past trauma and build a new vision of what could be.

© Athi-Patra Ruga. Convention… Procession… Elevation (detail), 2013.


The show’s opening night will be remembered as a high note. Cape Town’s art and publishing scenes convened at Ruga’s mother gallery, Whatiftheworld, to get as close as possible to the creativity. Skattie What Are You Wearing documented the happening. But it is out of his saber toothed Zebras and balloon characters on Xhosa war fields that a strangely identifiable narrative emerges, one that asks the viewer to hang around and see Azania.

The Future White Women of Azania is on view in Cape Town at Whatiftheworld Gallery until February 8th 2014.

© Athi-Patra Ruga. Convention… Procession… Elevation (detail), 2013.




© Athi-Patra Ruga. The Votive Portrait of Her 2013.




© Athi-Patra Ruga. Uzuko 2013.




© Athi-Patra Ruga. Invitation… Presentation…Induction… 2013




© Athi-Patra Ruga. Convention… Procession… Elevation (detail), 2013.




Exploring the border-zones between fashion, performance and contemporary art, Athi-Patra Ruga makes work that exposes and subverts the body in relation to structure, ideology and politics. Bursting with eclectic multicultural references, carnal sensuality and a dislocated undercurrent of humor, his performances, videos, costumes and photographic images create a world where cultural identity is no longer determined by geographical origins, ancestry or biological disposition, but is increasingly becoming a hybrid construct. A Utopian counter-proposal to the sad dogma of the division between mind and body, sensuality and intelligence, pop culture, craft and fine art, his works expresses the eroticism of knowledge and reconciles the dream with experience. He was recently included in the Phaidon book ‘Younger Than Jesus’, a directory of over 500 of the world’s best artists under the age of 33. He is represented by Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town.


Written by Kyle Tregurtha.

All images courtesy of the artist and Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town. All rights reserved.

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