Lot 89
  • 89

ATHI-PATRA RUGA | The Exile According To The Elder

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Athi-Patra Ruga
  • The Exile According To The Elder
  • wool, artificial flowers and thread on tapestry canvas 
  • 220 by 184cm., 86¾ by 72½in.
  • Executed in 2014


WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery, Cape Town, 2014
Acquired from the above by the present owner


London, WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery Booth, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, 2014


Please note that several of the artificial flowers appear to be loose, however this seems to be the artists intent. There appears to be two areas to the bottom right hand corner where flowers have fallen off or have been removed.There are several flowers which appear to have flattened or wrinkled, as is typical with the nature of this material. Overall the work appears to be in very good original condition.
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Catalogue Note

This intricate self-portrait by South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga is part of a larger ongoing series in which the artist depicts himself as characters from his fictitious matriarchal nation of Azania. ‘My original preamble for Azania is to acknowledge the fact that SA’s history is built on the backs of women and their formidable abilities to transcend, it is also built on the hypocrisies of a nationalist narrative that both infantilises and erases women’.

Created with the intention of infusing his character with dimension and authenticity, the present work is a representation of The Elder of Azania, one of Ruga’s many Azanian alter egos and the only male inhabitant of the state. Exiled after the First Azanian War (1994-2008), Athi-Patra Ruga draws a direct comparison between The Elder and his own father, who was exiled from South Africa during the country’s liberation struggle. Emerging out of a lush floral background, Ruga’s Elder stares outwards towards the viewer and is adorned with glistening jewellery, his chest on display. The focus is on his face, neck and torso as the rest of the body seems to gently fade away.

It is through his mythical characters and utopic land that Ruga critiques the political and social status quo of post-apartheid South Africa. The artist uses his depictions of various Azanian characters in an attempt at drawing parallels between the history and people of Azania and that of South Africa. The creation of an alternate reality allows Ruga to comment on South Africa’s modern history, and indeed its future, from an impartial and distant viewpoint, whilst also providing a platform for self-reflection on his own experiences during the country’s traumatic past.

Born in 1984 in the Transkei, South Africa, Athi-Patra Ruga spent much of his childhood between Umtata, South Africa and London, UK, where he attended the Belgravia Art School. A graduate of the Gordon Flack Davidson Academy of Design in Johannesburg, much of Athi-Patra Ruga’s practice continues to incorporate his background in fashion design, as is evident in this present work. Today, the artist is based between Cape Town and Johannesburg, creating work that ranges from performance, tapestry, video, and costume design to photography.

Athi-Patra Ruga’s work has been included in several international exhibitions including Art Afrique at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris (2017), Women’s Work at the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2016-2017) and Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design at the Guggenheim Bilbao (2016). The artist has also enjoyed several solo exhibitions and recently unveiled a new performance entitled Over the Rainbow at Performa 17 in New York. Ruga’s works can be found in several prominent private collections such as Zeitz MOCAA, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, Italy, The Pigozzi Collection, The Wedge Collection and the Iziko South African National Gallery collection.