Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa

Live Virtual Auction, 28 February 2023

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa
About the Session

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa is a dynamic collaborative project conceived by Strauss & Co to address the need for diversified representation of artists from across the African continent in the secondary market. Curated by Strauss & Co Heads of Sale, Kirsty Colledge and Kate Fellens, with input by seven international art experts with embedded knowledge of Africa; Serge Tiroche, Valerie Kabov, Heba Elkayal, Danda Jaroljmek, Anne Kariuki, Dana Endundo Ferreira, Kimberley Cunningham. Curatorial Voices presents collectors with a broad selection of work by leading contemporary artists alongside select pieces by important historical artists.

Sold for

ZAR 346 575
Lot 97
  • Athi-Patra Ruga; Night of the Long Knives IV
  • Athi-Patra Ruga; Night of the Long Knives IV

Lot Estimate
ZAR 300 000 - 500 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 346 575

About this Item

South African 1984-
Night of the Long Knives IV

signed, dated '30/06/2015', inscribed with the title, medium, and editioned 4/10 on a WHATIFTHEWORLD certificate of authenticity

archival ink-jet print on Photorag Baryta
149 by 191cm excluding frame; 150,5 by 192,5 by 3,5cm including frame


The present lot is accompanied by a WHATIFTHEWORLD certificate of authenticity.

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

Athi-Patra Ruga is one of the few artists working in South Africa today whose work has adopted the trope of myth as a contemporary response to the post-Apartheid era. Ruga creates alternative identities and uses these avatars to parody and critique the existing political and social status quo. Ruga’s artistic approach of creating myths and alternate realities is in some way an attempt to view the traumas of the last 200 years of colonial history
from a place of detachment – at a farsighted distance where wounds can be contemplated outside of personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.

The philosophical allure and allegorical value of utopia has been central to Ruga’s practice. His construction of a mythical universe populated by characters that he has created and depicted in his work has allowed Ruga to create an interesting space of self-reflexivity in which political, cultural, and social systems can be critiqued and parodied. Ruga has used his utopia as a lens to process the fraught history of a colonial past, to critique the present and propose a possible humanist vision for the future.1

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


WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, 2014.

Property of Collectors.


WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, The Future White Women of Azania Saga, 27 November 2013 to 1 January 2014.


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

View all Athi-Patra Ruga lots for sale in this auction

Other lots that might interest you
Cyrus Kabiru; Macho Nne 07 (Ireland Mask)
Cyrus Kabiru
Macho Nne 07 (Ireland Mask)
ZAR 50 000 - 70 000
Pierre-Christophe Gam; Kolade, Affogbolo series
Pierre-Christophe Gam
Kolade, Affogbolo series
ZAR 50 000 - 70 000
Ibrahim Ahmed; quickly but carefully cross to the other side # 26, I never revealed myself to them series
Ibrahim Ahmed
quickly but carefully cross to the other side # 26, I never revealed myself to them series
ZAR 70 000 - 90 000
Robin Rhode; Girl with Skipping Rope, six
Robin Rhode
Girl with Skipping Rope, six
ZAR 350 000 - 500 000
Robin Rhode; Pascal's Plates
Robin Rhode
Pascal's Plates
ZAR 40 000 - 60 000
Athi-Patra Ruga; Proposed Model for Tseko Simon Nkoli Memorial
Athi-Patra Ruga
Proposed Model for Tseko Simon Nkoli Memorial
ZAR 500 000 - 700 000