Athi-Patra Ruga: Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions

4 Oct 2018 – 6 Jan 2019

Regular hours

11:00 – 20:00
11:00 – 20:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 20:00

Cost of entry


Somerset House

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 77a, 91 and 176, while the River Bus Service can be taken to Embankment and Savoy Piers.
  • Temple, Covent Garden, Charing Cross and Embankment.
  • Charing Cross, Waterloo and Blackfriars.

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New and rarely seen works from the 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.

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.

Born in Umtata, South Africa, and now based in Cape Town, Ruga is the figurehead for a new generation of South African artists, using myth and alternate realities as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Throughout his career, Ruga has adopted avatars and created characters through whom he addresses ideologies, social and state structures, and the politics of gender inequality. By adopting these characters, Ruga has been empowered to confront the complex truths of his nation’s colonial history, post-colonial present, and his own personal experiences as a queer Xhosa man.

Part of the Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Rooms Series.

Presented in partnership with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

Exhibiting artists

Athi-Patra Ruga


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