Painting & Drawing
My mind is contorted. I have never been to art school. I am an artist. My current work features my sympathies for megalomaniacs and autocrats. Very fortunately, I am the antithesis of Adolf Hitler. I was born to an authoritarian father, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, during the reign of the cult of personality of Mobutu Sese Seko. When I was five, with my own eyes, I saw the universe come to a standstill as the President’s glistening motorcade snaked along the grand boulevard. I was captivated. This was God. Lord of the new Planet. We moved to Zimbabwe in the ‘80s. No one had the cunning of Robert Mugabe. He was one with my father. Only when I grew up, did I separate fact from fiction, and the men from the myths. When I discovered painting, well into my thirties, it was a small portrait of Hitler I completed first. Right or wrong, many have urged me to destroy and never mention that painting again. Well. These are the nutrients and seeds of The Dictator’s Garden. The art residency is the opportunity to put my mind’s contortions to untangled use. Not because I have the mental capacity to divide and destroy, but rather because as a closet poet, self-taught painter, and firm believer in the duplicity, dimensionality, and capacity of all people, I possess the humour, sensitivity, and provocative dexterity to bind the left and the right through art that incites dialogue. Our world is accelerating, and increasingly destructive. My portraits are visual metaphors that delve into a dichotomy most people, subjects of a hegemonically liberal world, areat least semiconsciously attuned to. Strength presented in fragility exposes the human weakness behind grand egos; beauty contrasted with and smothering the monstrous. Interdependent and contradictory ideas must be metabolised but are more often ignored to allow us to remain engaged with our own personal realities. Like colourful dreams, the paintings of The Dictator’s Garden stand in stark contrast with the realities of dictators, and dictatorships. Stripped of all symbols of power and domination, terror and suppression, and the general stateliness and grandeur ordinarily inherent in portraits of such leaders, they are replaced with fragile flowers and wilting annuals. These powerful figures are instead depicted in the most joyful, and delicate of flattened settings. Birds and flowers are uninterested in them, beauty and harmony are unsuppressed by their stern glances. Susceptible themselves to bruising and browning, they are presented inundated by growth, attracting viewers to the human faces of ugliness. These paintings raise an instinctive discomfort, a beginning for a rational definition of this discomfort, to motivate a dialogue on the roots of “evil” and encourage our ability to internalise the idea that we are the only fertiliser. Consider the present day. Our prejudices challenged and fertilised by fear and extremist acts. The Dictator’s Garden is my attempt to make the world a better, more self-aware place. These paintings aim to expose the defaults we use to rationalise the State and the state. As is my belief, art sustains and makes sense of life, lest we remain utterly bereft of hope, bobbing about in history.
Through folly and conflict, life without art is bereft of hope. Mulumba’s works are visual metaphors exploring the dualities of human nature. Mulumba’s current artistic focus is on the Dictator’s Garden. A gathering of the best/worst in the business of authority. This exhibition, a mix of original paintings, original illustrations, and limited-edition prints, will appear in various venues around London. Viewings will follow in other cities around the world, starting with Montreal, Canada in the spring of 2021. A self-taught conceptual artist, the 46-year-old Congolese Canadian has lived on four continents. Based in the UK, he works with STEAM Co., a non-profit Community Enterprise using imagination to inspire children, and grownups, to dream like pioneers. Mulumba is also completing a satiric novel about love, death, and one very eccentric Swede.
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