Athi-Patra Ruga: Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions
Somerset House, London, United Kingdom04 Oct 2018 - 06 Jan 2019
This October, Somerset House and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair present new and rarely seen works from internationally renowned South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga.
In his first major solo UK exhibition, Ruga reveals a mythical world which challenges perceptions of cultural identity, and parodies the construction of the South African nation state, in the post-apartheid era. The exhibition continues beyond 1-54 as a standalone show throughout Somerset House’s winter season.
For the first time, Ruga brings together three seminal bodies of work – The Future White Women of Azania (2012-15), Queens in Exile (2015-17), and The Beatification of Feral Benga (2017-present) – immersing visitors in his vibrant world filled with powerful and striking characters.
Through the exhibition, Ruga creates an allegorical vision of utopia to explore the post-apartheid political, cultural and social systems of South Africa, forming a critique of Desmond Tutu’s declaration of South Africa as a ‘Rainbow Nation’. Showcasing his diverse practice that spans film, photography, sculpture and beautiful hand-crafted petit point tapestry, Ruga creates a counter narrative for those who have been forgotten or marginalised from South Africa’s national imagination.
A number of public events will accompany the exhibition. Ruga will be joined by Zoe Whitley, Curator, International Art at TATE Modern and co-curator of their recent Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition, for a FORUM talk curated by writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun as part of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair. Ruga’s new monograph will be published by Ruga’s gallery, WHATIFTHEWORLD, to coincide with the opening of this exhibition and will be exclusively available from Somerset House for one month. Somerset House Shop, in partnership with 1-54, will also bring together a bespoke collection of products dedicated to contemporary art and culture from Africa and its diaspora, on sale throughout the fair and Ruga’s exhibition.