Athi-Patra Ruga


...of bugchasers and watussi faghags

20 August - 20 September 2008

...of bugchasers and watussi faghags is the first solo exhibition of Athi-Patra Ruga's to be held in Johannesburg. The exhibition revolves around the principal character of the "bugchaser", Beiruth, and his 'tales of counter-penetration', realized through craft-mediations and performances undertaken in various urban centers around South Africa and abroad.

This body of work is an interrogation of my interest in the history of image-making, and of displacement - both of people and images. The title of the show is double-edged: it refers to the sexual practice of 'bug-chasing' (the act of contracting the H.I. virus intentionally) - with it's seemingly altruistic motivation; while also referring to the history of the 'Watussi', a colonial mis-pronouncement of the Tutsi people of the Burundi-Ruanda nation. The Watussi myth is further explored in the "Pixilated Arcadia" series of tapestries, referencing paintings done by Irma Stern during her 1943 and 1946 expeditions to central Africa depicting the "Watussi". Stern's works are re-narrated through irreverent subversion, with the aim of focusing attention on the implicit ethnographic and propagandistic undertones of the work. The "Watussi women" meditations find their retort in the "... watussi moneyshot" (2008) tapestry - a parody on the historical and the contemporary hoochie-mamma...

Beiruth's name is derived from a pun around the middle-eastern city of Beirut - a play on the theme of Orientalism; but more importantly he is the illusive figure that qualifies the autonomous body against that of the sovereign state. In my new video: "...after he left" (2008), Beiruth is documented undertaking various journeys: catching a taxi to the Cape Town township of Atlantis, a place that is a far cry from its legendary namesake; Beiruth seeking a sensual ideal in the form of the increasingly-popular evangelical churches. The video is accompanied by a series of performative stills "...the naivety of Beiruth" (2008), which documents Beiruth's interactions with various spaces of the inner-city, including Johannesburg Central Police Station (formerly John Voster Square).

The gallery is open from Tuesday to Friday, 10:30am to 5:30pm, and Saturday from 9:30am to 3pm.

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