Athi-Patra Ruga – "Miss Azania, Exile is waiting" by Athi-Patra Ruga, was on display as part of the Pan-African exhibition during the African biennale, that took place at the Bamako National Museum throughout December and January. Created in 2015, it is part of Ruga's epic series, "The Future White Woman of Azania," that began in 2010.
Athi-Patra Ruga – "The Future White Woman of Azania" features a number of female characters -- usually played by Ruga himself -- in vibrant and bizarre outfits. The series won Ruga international acclaim, with exhibitions across the world, including Moscow, Venice, France and the US. In 2015, he won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Performance, the most prestigious award in South Africa.
Athi-Patra Ruga – "The Night of the Long Knives I", 2013. The world of Azania is depicted as a tropical idyll with lush vegetation. Its ballooned "white woman" rides on the back of a zebra.
Athi-Patra Ruga – A still from "Over the Rainbow," a film as part of Ruga's 2016-2017 "Queens of Exile" exhibition. This project is a continuation of his "The Future White women of Azania" series, exploring the theme of exile.
Athi-Patra Ruga – Ruga often plays the characters he invents. "My work revolves around me," he says. This is partly as a challenge to himself, he says, as it tests his acting ability and his performative range.
Athi-Patra Ruga – Ruga uses many mediums to express his art, including fashion, performance, photography and film. "Most of my work starts out with me performing," he says, "going out into the streets and trying out a new character. There's a naivety that comes with these alien characters, and once they are faced with how men react to me, or how the laws of a city react to me, the dystopian element comes out."
Athi-Patra Ruga – However, performance on its own has a limited audience. So Ruga also documents it through video, photography and art. "I need to use works and media that can travel, and actually reach people," he said.
Athi-Patra Ruga – The bulk of the exhibition is made up of hand-embroidered tapestries. By creating quasi-historical artifacts, such as maps, portraits and tapestries showing mythological events, Ruga is forming his own nation, Azania. This piece is entitled "Somagwaza: a Queen's Herald."
Athi-Patra Ruga – "The Glamouring of a Versatile Queen," 2015. Through his work, Ruga reimagines a matriarchal post-apartheid history.
Athi-Patra Ruga – "Homelands as uBhaco (Mmabatho)," 2017. Ruga said he wants to explore ideas of exile in his work, since it is integral to the continent's history.