Imagine a pinup calendar that revisits history through color, and woven in a manner that depicts your past and future in an amusing way. Confused?
Well that is what the future looks like for South African performing artist Athi-Patra Ruga, known for his flamboyant performances and tapestries that challenge social norms.
Growing up in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, Ruga knew at a young age he would become an artist, taking lessons, after school, at Belgravia Art Centre. He then received a scholarship to the Gordon Flack Davidson Academy of Design in Johannesburg.
“I had always known my body would be a site for telling stories. I feel the drive to tell stories, [I] overcame my fears – about it never been done before,” he says.
When he cut his teeth in art, he dabbled in fashion designing, incorporating fashion and art into one.
“Fashion has the power to dictate our movements physically and socially, to [a] great consequence. I have never seen it as a huge leap as both those mediums are concerned with the body,” says Ruga.
His current body of work is Queens in Exile, addressing issues of belonging and identity. However, it is his piece on the queens of Azania that put him on the cultural map.
“I feel it sparked something in the audience that [binds] our generation together. Witnessing the betrayal to the constitution I was raised with and also rainbowism, a utopian construct, played out in the country that is economically the most unequal in the world,” says Ruga.
Ruga was the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year in 2015 and has done work for luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton. Believing the world is alive with possibilities, he held on to the hope he would one day travel the world.
“I had always dreamt of going to the south of France and now for the past five years, my husband and I have been going to Toulon for the Hyères festival,” says Ruga.
The Eastern Cape has produced some of South Africa’s great political leaders, from Nelson Mandela to Steve Biko, so it is little wonder Ruga’s work has strong historical references.
“History has the ability to arm us as a dispossessed youth, with knowledge that our forefathers went through the same things we are going through and we need that knowledge to arm us to find sophisticated ways of mobilizing for economic and cultural currency,” says Ruga.
He desensitizes “uncomfortable” topics using vibrant colors. His work is represented by the WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery in Cape Town, and in Paris, by InSitu Fabienne Leclerc.
There is also a lot of story-telling in his work which comes from his father being a journalist.
“I come from a family of people who enjoyed telling stories and I gravitate to that tradition of storytelling in my art,” says Ruga.
His industry is faced with numerous challenges, but Ruga chose early on in his career to not focus on the negative.
“I’m honestly not concerned with focusing on challenges, that’s not how I got here. It is the attitude that defines how I will overcome that is ultimate. Our education system is something we all need to face and improve as that leads one to art and in return empathy for others,” he says.
Ruga encourages upcoming artists to venture into different spheres such as photography, art and designing as they are lucrative.
He says there are more than enough role models across the continent one could look up to such as Nicholas Hlobo, a South African contemporary artist who creates sculptures and explores ethnicity, masculinity, and sexual identity. He too looks up to him.
Despite the global exposure and success at home, Ruga is convinced the best is yet to come.
“I always feel my big break hasn’t happened yet,” he says. That will be a story for another time.
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Brought to you by Hugo Boss
HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.
Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.
HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.
In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.
Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.
“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.
The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.
The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.
Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.
Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.
Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.
“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.
Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.
“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”
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