Contemporary Art

Live Auction, 16 February 2019

Contemporary Auction

Sold for

ZAR 1 707 000
Lot 73
  • Athi-Patra Ruga; The Night of the Long Knives I

Lot Estimate
ZAR 250 000 - 350 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 1 707 000

About this Item

South African 1984-
The Night of the Long Knives I
signed, dated 2013 and numbered 4/5 on the reverse
archival ink-jet print on Photorag Baryta, dibonded
150 by 190cm excluding frame


The costumed figure in this photograph speaks directly to Athi-Patra Ruga’s biography, in particular his love for fashion and artistic penchant for elaborate scenography and camp theatrics. Born in Umtata but raised in East London, Ruga moved to Johannesburg in 2002 to study fashion at the Gordon Flack-Davidson Academy of Design. He soon encountered the work of transgressive performance artists Steven Cohen and Sharon Bone, and also befriended artist Tracey Rose, whom he would later assist. The balloon-clad figure in this photo was conceived for a live performance at the 2010 Toffie Festival in Argentina. Ruga subsequently staged appearances in Holland and Italy, as well as in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Grahamstown. Over time his drag-influenced character acquired a mythical context: she is a monarch from a matriarchal dynasty ruling Azania, a fictional utopia once championed by anti-apartheid activists. Ruga has likened his Azania to Walter Battiss’s Fook Island: ‘I think one should always have the idea of a better place.’1

Sean O’Toole

  1. Sean O’Toole, interview with artist, 21 October 2013.


WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, The Future White Women of Azania Saga, 27 November to 1 January 2014.

Framer Framed, Amsterdam, Re(as)sisting Narratives, 28 August to 27 November 2016.


Athi-Patra Ruga. (2014) Athi-Patra Ruga: F.W.W.O.A SAGA, Cape Town: WHATIFTHEWORLD. Illustrated in colour, unpaginated.

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