News / Art

Athi-Patra Ruga’s first UK solo exhibition at Somerset House this October


Athi-Patra Ruga: Night of the Long Knives I, 2013
© Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD

This October, Somerset House and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will present the first solo UK exhibition of South African artist, Athi-Patra Ruga. Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions will go on beyond 1-54 as a standalone show, featuring new and rarely seen works that bring together three seminal series The Future White Women of Azania, Queens in Exile, and The Beatification of Feral Benga.

Exploring the complex truths of South Africa’s “colonial history, post-colonial present, and his personal experiences as a queer Xhosa man”, Ruga stands at the forefront of his nation’s new generation of artists. Using a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, he responds to Desmond Tutu’s declaration of South Africa as “a Rainbow Nation”. The exhibition, spanning a range of mediums, such as film, photography, sculpture and tapestry, will explore his notion of utopia. Ruga “creates a counter-narrative for those who have been forgotten or marginalised” from South Africa’s imagination.

His iconic body of work The Future White Women of Azania will be on show, challenging concepts of race and identity by masking its figures in a shroud of brightly coloured balloons. New work such as The Beatification of Feral Benga, “a tribute to the Senegalese dancer as a queer icon”, will also be on display. A number of public events will also accompany the exhibition, including a forum talk which will see Zoe Whitley and Ekow Eshun join Ruga in conversation. A new monograph will also be printed, as well as a bespoke collection of products that will go on sale at Somerset House Shop.

The exhibition will be on view from 4 October—7 January 2019.


Athi-Patra Ruga: Miss Azania 2019, 2015
© Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD


Athi-Patra Ruga: Over the Rainbow (Queens in Exile Series) Video Still
© Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD


Athi-Patra Ruga: Over the Rainbow (Queens in Exile Series) Video Still II
© Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD


Athi-Patra Ruga: Convention…Procession…Elevation, 2013
© Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD


Athi-Patra Ruga: Proposed Model for uMabele-bele, 2018
© Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD