Modern & Contemporary African Art | and CCA Lagos Benefit Auction

Modern & Contemporary African Art | and CCA Lagos Benefit Auction

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 44. The Knight of the Long Knives I, 2013.

Athi-Patra Ruga

The Knight of the Long Knives I, 2013

Lot Closed

March 22, 03:44 PM GMT


18,000 - 24,000 GBP

Lot Details


Athi-Patra Ruga

South African


The Knight of the Long Knives I, 2013

Archival ink-jet print on Photorag Baryta, dibonded

editioned 3 of 5 on accompanying certificate of authenticity

149.7 by 192.2cm., 59 by 75¾in.

framed: 150 by 192.5cm., 59 by 75¾in.

Robert Sherwood, Cape Town

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Dale Berning Sawa, 'Athi-Patra Ruga's best photograph: a queer black fantasia with added zebras' in The Guardian, 10 Oct 2018

Cape Town, WHATIFTHEWORLD, The Future White Women of Azania Saga, 27 November-12 January 2014 (another example)

Amsterdam, Framer Framed, Re(as)sisting Narratives, 28 August-27 November 2016 (another example)

London, Somerset House, Athi-Patra Ruga: Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions, 4 Oct 2018-6 Jan 2019 (another example)

"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’."

The tableaux photograph Night of the Long Knives I is part of a larger ongoing series in which the artist depicts himself as characters from his fictitious matriarchal nation of Azania. 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.

This work depicts The Future White Woman in formal procession, saddled upon a sabre-toothed zebra and accompanied by the Abodade. The title of the work refers to the apartheid era myth that predicted violent insurrection by the black majority at the abolition of the system:

"This image is part of my Future White Women of Azania series. Azania is the utopia I’ve created. Populated by a pantheon of recurring characters, it is the story of black queer women in South Africa. On the right, you have the Flower of Azania, wearing a costume made from 250 sunhats. The two figures to the left, holding sceptres, are the faceless abo dade (sisters). They have the ability to make babies, not by having sex with men, but by just thinking about it."

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.