A New Conversation: Interview with Athi-Patra Ruga

  • Kate Simpson

“What is this idea of America that needs to be great again? Utopias are a concept that need to be defended by their creators – utilising the polarised notions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in order to maintain power and influence over people. Armies and border control are called in to reinforce these ideas.” Responses and contributions to #BlackLivesMatter can’t be limited to the news cycle. In order to change the world’s systemic racism, entire societies need to change. We must educate, donate and contribute to the conversation by any means possible. In light of this, we’ve made a very special article from the June / July issue free to read, and free to share. The piece was written in May, but since being published in print on 1 June, has been made increasingly relevant in light of the devastating acts of police brutality against George Floyd and the consistent threads posed to black communities at large. In ‘A New Conversation’, South African visual artist Athi-Patra Ruga asks meaningful questions, examining the rise of racist rhetoric and the role of the artist in navigating these power structures. He notes: “Unfortunately, we live in a sad state of consciousness, grounded on the principles of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ In spite of this, there’s an even stronger fightback from artists, humanists and lovers of individuality, who are combatting this false sense of evolution … Historically, my queer, black and femme identity has been veiled by society’s lack – or inadequacy – of acceptance. Like many others, I have been rendered as an alien: omitted … I had to carve and fight for a kind of safe space.” Through bold costume, pageantry and performance, Ruga’s works ask meaningful questions about how to decolonise the art sector, whilst considering the idea of primitivism, non-verbal communication and levels of “civilisation”, telling stories through colour. Please read, share, and continue the conversation. Black lives matter. Black voices matter. To view the article online: https://bit.ly/370R5Xo To download the article as a PDF: https://bit.ly/3dy2j8e