Athi Patra Ruga Interview: A Glimpse of Utopia


“Somehow resistance is what validates an identity. Growing up gay, black and non-Christian, it kind of is something I love playing with.” Meet Athi-Patra Ruga, one of South Africa’s up-and-coming artists, whose sensuous work makes us question everyday life.

Young performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga presents his artistic practice and the ongoing series of works, ‘Azania’. In this performance series Ruga walks in long processions wearing high-heeled shoes and balloons. “Because in real life as well, all identity is made of air.”

Ruga, who grew up in South Africa, explains how his generation was raised to believe that the post-apartheid country had, in his words, “reached a kind of utopia”. His acknowledgement of the widespread prejudice and social problems led Ruga to the concept of ‘Azania’, a pre-colonial idea of Africa used during apartheid to empower pan-African protesters.

Ruga’s works are often performed in groups with many bodies working together to realise a vision. “Collaboration for me, as much as it is a word that is thrown around, it truly is a philosophy.” Community in Ruga’s work becomes the utopic vision: “When you’re performing I always feel that there’s a miasma going through the whole crew. It brings everyone together.”

Athi-Patra Ruga (b. 1984) is a South African artist whose work explores the border-zones between fashion, performance and contemporary art, exposing and subverting the body in relation to structure, ideology and politics. He was recently named the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Performance. His work has been shown at Performa in New York, USA, the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; The 55th Venice Biennale, Italy and at the SFMOMA, USA.

Athi-Patra Ruga was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at Nørrebro Teater, Denmark, in June 2016.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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