Athi-Patra Ruga, Proposed model of Françoise Benga (1906-1957), 2018, Whatiftheworld 

Athi-Patra Ruga was born in 1984 in the Transkei, growing up between the former, Umtata and East London, where in 1999 he attended the Belgravia Art College. In 2004 Ruga was awarded a scholarship to study fashion design at the Gordon Flack Davidson Academy of Design in Johannesburg. Athi-Patra Ruga is one of the few artists working in South Africa today whose work has adopted the trope of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga creates alternative identities and uses these avatars as a way to parody and critique the existing political and social status quo. Ruga’s artistic approach of creating myths and alternate realities is in some way an attempt to view the traumas of the last 200 years of colonial history from a place of detachment – at a farsighted distance where wounds can be contemplated outside of personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.

The philosophical allure and allegorical value of utopia has been central to Ruga’s practice. His construction of a mythical metaverse populated by characters which he has created and depicted in his work have allowed Ruga to create an interesting space of self reflexivity in which political, cultural and social systems can be critiqued and parodied.Ruga has used his utopia as a lens to process the fraught history of a colonial past, to critique the present and propose a possible humanist vision for the future.