Lionel Bumbakini, aka BUMBAKiNi, brings a global view to the Denver art scene. Of Congolese descent, he boldly envisions the modern American experience from a black man’s perspective, in swaths of bright folk imagery inspired by Africa but driven by current events and politics. As he prepares to unveil his first solo show on Friday, February 3, at Dateline, we picked BUMBAKiNi’s brain for insight, via the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
BUMBAKiNi: If I could collaborate with anyone in history, it would be Marina Abramovic, to test the limits of my creative existential being. I don't know of any other artist who has pushed their psyche, body and soul to the limits that Marina has in her illustrious career; in fact, for much of her career people just thought she was insane, but she now garners the attention of an art demi-god. Through her performances and montages she has become the canvas and the paint, and in doing so has revolutionized the way the audience interacts with the art. I'd like to join this revolution — I’d be her art slave.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Elon Musk, because he wants to get to Mars and I do, too. In many respects, he's the new Steve Jobs, in the sense that his innovative spirit is driving technology and our use of energy to become more sustainable. If only he could set up shop in Africa.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Post-internet art with its glitchy, faux-abstract, shallow, nonsensical digital montages. I can see why people are intrigued by the form, but I think it lacks the depth that it needs to truly be an art form, and not just collaged, animated spam.
What's your day job?
I'm actually looking for a job, if anyone out there wants to hire me. That said, I'm a gallery assistant at the Dona Laurita Gallery in Louisville on the weekends.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would build orphanages in developing cities across the world, starting with Kinshasa, where my family resides and over 20,000 children call the streets home. There are more than 150 million street-children in the world today, many with no future aspirations beyond getting their next meal. My goal would be to provide them with the tools and environment to follow their dreams.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it, and leave it to return again. I love this city for what it has contributed to my development, not only as an artist but as a person. I went to East High School, right in the heart of Colfax, where I made connections with people of all walks of life. I threw my first party in RiNo and had shows throughout the city, including in high school, when I was running around with a collective called Never Care. But I'm also a traveling man, and there is no greater pleasure I get than from interacting with different cultures. Still, I always get the butterflies when I see DIA's white peaks in the distance.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
I think that the creative establishments and entities should not only collaborate more, but also empower more local artists. Events the likes of Artopia are quintessential to the growth of the city’s creative scene and can not only empower galleries, but also the artists who make the city move. These events yield more opportunities for artists, designers and entrepreneurs to meet, and as a result, continue to build the city’s creative landscape.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Jeromie Dorrance: artist, curator and owner of Dateline Gallery in RiNo. I think what he's done with Dateline is incredible, and it's one of the best additions to the city’s art scene in the past decade. His anti-establishment establishment is a niche that is all about Denver, which was lacking before Dateline's inception, and to do it in RiNo was only fitting, as the gallery fits RiNo's history and culture very well. He has great taste, throws a raging party and has a great vision.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
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This year, I'll be quite busy. In commemoration of Black History Month, I will be showing an installation/performance art piece at Dateline on February 3. Later in the month, I'll be contributing to a mural for Westword's Artopia. I'm also working on illustrating two books, as well as hosting creative workshops for middle- and high-school-aged kids. Alongside all of these projects, I am the creative director for a local artist’s debut album, which is slated for February 2018.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I think Denver as a whole is on the verge of getting national recognition for our creative flavor. I see so many of my peers working so hard, which motivates me to work even harder. Denver’s got next!
BUMBAKiNi’s topical, participatory installation Witnessed opens with a reception from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, February 3, at Dateline Gallery. For more information, visit Dateline’s website or Facebook page. See more of BUMBAKiNi’s work online.