Q&A With Artist Athi-Patra Ruga

Constantly growing, developing and creating opportunities for his audience to learn from his story telling and journeys, Eastern Cape born artist Athi-Patra Ruga is famous for his unique multi-faceted showcases which explore and inform.

What are the main life elements that inspire your art?

‘I’m inspired by a drive that I’ve always had of telling stories that place me, and my allies in the center of the modernist exercise and it’s evidently exclusionary tales.’

How has your journey as an artist changed after performing ‘The Future White Women of Azania’ in you hometown?

‘Not much as I have come to terms that like an onion or a rose once one layer is peeled another comes to challenge you to reveal more stories again. It is the audience that has grown with the sagas that I carry in my heart.’


Athi Patra Ruga at The Armory Show 2018-edited
Image:The Beatification of Feral Benga by Athi-Patra Ruga, Jarred Figgins


Can you share the inspiration behind and symbolism of your sculpture in the collection of Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa?

‘The first openly gay man I had ever seen was Simon Nkoli on the Felicia Mabuza Show. So in all the bullying that I was a target of growing up openly gay and affirmed in 90’s East London, I had carried him in my heart as a patron saint of sorts, and derive strength.

‘In a country that is in a crossroads with regards to which memories are worthy of defending … I proposed a monument to having a queer struggle cadre, who we seem to not have in our collective imagination in an all inclusive SA narrative.’

Regarding all your works and projects, is there a specific one that you feel a greater love and attachment to, above the others?

‘I’m like a deadbeat father when it comes to my sentimentality about projects. All the projects stand out as they satisfy the need to execute complex stories with superior technique and work ethic.’


Athi-Patra Ruga - Proposed Model of Francois Benga (1906-1957)[2018]-edited
Athi-Patra Ruga’s Proposed Model of Francois Benga (1906-1957), 2018 Image courtesy of Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD

Did 18 year old Athi envision this scale of success and public appreciation for your work?

‘18 year old Athi had been running his studio in Johannesburg with a clear plan and focus on my definition of success [self mastery]. I am fortunate to have been affirmed by my community and family to the fact that anything I envision will be.’

Where are your works currently displayed?

‘In France I am showing at the Musee d’Orangerie. I have just opened a successful solo show at the prestigious Armory Art Fair in New York, which got us listed in the New York Times best shows of the week. We are also going to be showing a humble solo survey show at Somerset House in the Spring.’

Are you working on a new thought inspiring series right now?

‘Imagine the/a pin up calendar, not the Gregorian but that of the Xhosa people. This is the project I am completing and will release on The Month of Isilimela [June] which is the first month.’


Athi-Patra Ruga - Isimanje-manje And her Double Edged Sabre (2018)-edited
Athi-Patra Ruga’s
Isimanje-Manje and Her Double Edged Sabre, 2018.
Image courtesy of Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD


Featured Image: Athi-Patra Ruga, Facebook