Short email interview conducted with Athi-Patra Ruga for the exhibition project The Beautyful Ones, 2013
What do you understand, and think off when you hear ‘The Beautyful Ones’?
The Beautyful Ones are the ones that belong to an illusive future. They can sometimes be a tool for a revolution’s aspirations. They can inspire the ware. They are the same as a national, founding myth. They can sometimes be a tool for a revolution’s aspirations. They can in turn inspire the wary. They are the same as a national, founding myth somehow.
Are there any particular African writers/theorists/intellectuals that have made an impact on you? Who, and in what way did they influence your practice as an artist?
I’m assuming that this is not a strict grouping of people (they kinda seem to all have gone to a lot of big schools). I tend to not gravitate to this grouping … however I have always been interested in the explorer/archaeologist – always up for a learning. Their ever-discovering of old proposals of utopia is fascinating. Sayyid Qutb was an author, educator, theorist from Egypt, and the leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 60s. In 1966 he was convicted of plotting the assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and was executed by hanging.
Are you comfortable being called an ‘African’ artist? Is it a valid term? Any thoughts?
I have come to terms with the fact that ‘African’ is an experience, and without any argument the experience has been riddled with prejudice, subjugation and in turn the legacy is and will take a long time to shatter those lazy international thought processes and dare I say prejudices. “Europeans” on the other hand has never had to fight for their place, both aesthetically and the influence of its critical library.
All art needs a place …or is it all artists? For me I have always been ambivalent about shows that mention my nationality. IT IS AN IMPOSITION! The name is a construct historically and when it is used to represent ideals (I have a thing for skewed Utopias).
Where is home?
Where my Mali and my brother are.
How would you best describe your practice? Would it be fair to say that your medium is gender? And how do you understand performance in relation to more static forms such as your tapestries, and photographs?
Well I would, for now, say that I am obsessed with the animal that is the Male… he is a construction that he in turn parodies ….the pictures that he has ingrained in people and the kak (shit) effects of said images.
The act of my performances (that were based on interventionist performative tools) has always been to re-insert myself into a landscape that have been made inaccessible to me (via the ingenious act that is Leviticus). When I started my tapestries they were second hand from the Salvation Army from around the corner. Ready mades, as they were preprinted with usually arcadian, docile figures. My first interventions happened on these as I would change the characters to reflect who I was …or my thoughts into this canvas landscape. There is a subversion in stripping objects of their intention. Later I started craving scale and I started doing sittings and self portraits, for example ‘Castrato as the Revolution’. It is myself creating and transforming into the ‘Ilulwane’…
‘Ilulwane’, a noun for a bat, is also the Xhosa word used to describe a young man who has forsaken the traditional rite of passage to manhood, and much of the performance is concerned with this ritual.
Have you ever felt like a stranger?
Of course … this a perpetual state.