Ekow Nimako is a Ghanaian Canadian who started making Lego sculptures in 2012 and got funding for his project to showcase his work in Canada during Black History Month in 2014. Showcasing there made him realize the significance of his work, he said.
“I started realizing that not only did I enjoy making art with Lego, but it was important that I made Black art very specifically,” he told CNN. “This is a fine art. It’s not a hobby, it’s not a toy, it’s not part of the Lego fandom, and it’s not goofy. It doesn’t fall into a lot of categories that Lego creations fall into.”
He intentionally uses black Lego bricks for his sculptures because they are very common, “sophisticated” and sometimes “foreboding or haunting.” Most importantly, the sculptures he makes are “unequivocally Black,” he told CNN. “Despite their features or what I may do with them, they’ll always be regarded as Black,” he said.
The 42-year-old made his first human sculpture in 2014 called “Flower Girl.” The sculpture, he said, speaks to the “innocence lost of young Black girls that didn’t get a chance to be like traditional flower girls in the West — speaking to the girls that came here as a result of the transatlantic slave trade.”
The work, which was initially the size of a six-year-old girl, is now the size of a 10-year-old as he aged her as more Lego pieces were released and as he improved his skills.
“There’s an intrinsic essence of life in my work. The sculptures are inanimate objects made of plastic. There’s something that’s quite synthetic about them. But it’s that synthetic quality that I strive to transcend with life, (such as by) spending a lot of time developing the eyes of each sculpture,” said Nimako, who spends 50 to 800 hours making each sculpture.
The futurist artist creates his sculptures with a blend of Africanfuturism, Afrofuturism, and Afrofantasy. In his “Building Black: Civilizations” series, Nimako used 100,000 Lego pieces to construct a reimagining of the medieval kingdom of Ghana, titled “Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE.” That piece, which is named after the capital city of the medieval Ghanaian kingdom, can be found in the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.
In January, he made it known that he was building a sculpture called “The Great Turtle Race,” which depicts Black children racing on the backs of two mythological turtles to “capture the essence of childhood.”
Nimako’s surreal sculptures have caught the attention of many, including the Lego Group which has released a documentary about his work. The Ghanaian-Canadian artist is also a published author of Beasts from Bricks, an instructional Lego book featuring miniature sculptures of rare and beautiful animals with an elevated aesthetic, his website says.