Athi-Patra Ruga was born in 1984 in Umtata, South Africa, and lives and works in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Exploring the border zones between fashion, performance, and contemporary art, Ruga makes work that exposes and subverts the body in relation to structure, ideology, and politics. Bursting with eclectic multicultural references, carnal sensuality, and a dislocated undercurrent of humor, his performances, videos, costumes, and photographic images create a world where cultural identity is no longer determined by geographical origins, ancestry, or biological disposition, but is increasingly a hybrid construct. A utopian counterproposal to the sad dogma of the division between mind and body, sensuality and intelligence, pop culture, craft, and fine art, his works express the eroticism of knowledge and reconcile dream with experience.
Ruga has carried out artist residencies at Scénographies Urbaines in Lingwala, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (2006), A.I.R., PROGR-Zentrum für Kulturproduktion in Bern, Switzerland (2007), and Kin: Be: Jozi, August House, Johannesburg (2007). He has participated in group exhibitions at WHATIFTHEWORLD / GALLERY, Cape Town (2013), the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), III Moscow International Biennale for Young Art (2012), the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa (2012), Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2012), PERFORMA 11, New York (2011), the Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (2011), the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Museion), Bolzano, Italy (2008), and the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, China (2008). Ruga was a finalist for the FNB Art Prize at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, in 2011, and received the ELLE Rising Star Design Award, ELLE South Africa, Cape Town, in 2004.