Athi-Pa­tra Ruga

PER­FORMER AND ARTIST ATHI-PA­TRA RUGA SPILLS ON HIS IN­SPI­RA­TIONS, TRAVEL AND NAPOLEON OB­SES­SION

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

imoved from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town to study fashion but switched to art and per­for­mance, as I could use my body to com­mu­ni­cate the sto­ries I wanted told.The idea of tak­ing what you can get and us­ing it for some­thing great is what the dis­ci­pline has taught me.

I learnt so much from the women around me, who had power in­ter­laced with cre­ativ­ity and artistry. My mom wrote ra­dio dra­mas where my dad worked, Ra­dio Transkei.One of her first pre­sen­ta­tions was an adap­ta­tion based on the ro­mance of Napoleon and his wife Josephine. I had an ob­ses­sion with how the mere force of Napoleon’s per­son­al­ity de­fined his image. I re­call pow­er­ful moments: my dad tak­ing me to see the play Asi­na­mali, by the ‘god­fa­ther of town­ship theatre’, Gib­son Kente, see­ing the fall of the Ber­lin Wall fall in 1989 on Good Morn­ing South Africa and the re­lease of Tata Man­dela in 1990. I felt I was liv­ing in his­tory!

I have three ma­jor style in­flu­ences: the Bal­lets Russes, [writer-ac­tivist] Nancy Cu­nard and Prince. I can­not live with­out my her­ring­bone Hugo Boss coat, bought in Ber­lin ear­lier this year, my Givenchy ‘Madonna and Child’ sweat-top and a Lad­uma Ngx­okolo piece. Ni­cholas Coutts also demon­strates how sus­tain­able craft with a vi­sion can be a feast for the eye. I fer­vently hope that we’ve shifted the fo­cus from post-Afro chic to a com­mer­cially sound in­dus­try. How­ever, I feel that our fashion col­leges and the pri­mary plat­forms af­ter grad­u­a­tion do not suf­fi­ciently en­cour­age a grasp of con­cep­tual, his­tor­i­cal and ar­ti­san sen­si­bil­ity.

Week­end getaways with my dear­est peo­ple and the gong med­i­ta­tion ses­sions in Park Road, Gar­dens, are al­ways a treat. My stu­dio in Wood­stock is with­out a doubt one of my favourite places; it is where I make my dreams come true. I am fas­ci­nated with things like scripted re­al­ity TV and pop cul­ture. I have an ob­ses­sion with malls – the eu­pho­ria that peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence and when it all breaks down: hus­bands lose pa­tience, chil­dren throw fits etc. It’s so telling – you can learn some­thing about so­ci­ety with­out hav­ing to en­gage any­one face to face.

Two artists who’ve in­flu­enced me are Ni­cholas Hlobo, who opened his Jo’burg stu­dio to me, where I learnt my work ethic, and drag artist Dr Vagi­nal Davis, who lives per­for­mance with grace and ease. Her col­lab­o­ra­tions re­mind me that it is im­por­tant for the creative com­mu­nity to break down bor­ders around me­dia and gen­res. My work al­lows me to travel. For the past three years I have at­tended the Hyères In­ter­na­tional Fashion and Pho­tog­ra­phy Fes­ti­val on the Cote d’ Azur. Venice blew me away last year when I was there for the Bi­en­nale. Mu­sic feeds my soul: just have a lis­ten to Joanna New­som’s epic ‘Have One on Me’. I am a man who be­lieves that any­thing is pos­si­ble; art-fashion-per­for­mance has no bound­aries; and we are here only to set and push the next ones.

Left, right and below Some of Athi-Pa­tra Ruga’s works – a strik­ing com­bi­na­tion of art, colour and per­for­mance.

Pic­tured AthiPa­tra Ruga at home,with some of his favourite dé­cor, art and fashion pieces – and his cats.

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