Ekow Nimako: Taking Lego Art to the Next Level

Ekow Nimako: Taking Lego Art to the Next Level | Article

For 42-year-old Ghanaian Canadian artist Ekow Nimako, Lego is more than just a kids' toy. A trickster deity in the form of a spider, a flower girl holding a giant bee and a Ghanaian kingdom in the year 3020 are all sculptures that he has built using only black Legos.

The Art of Lego

“I'm making art,” said Nimako. “This is fine art. It's not a hobby, it's not a toy, it's not part of the Lego fandom, it's not goofy. It doesn't fall into a lot of categories that Lego creations fall into.”

A Journey of Black Art

Nimako started making Lego sculptures in 2012 and his career took off two years later when he received a grant to exhibit his work in Canada during Black History Month. “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 said.

The Choice of Black Lego Bricks

Nimako uses black Lego bricks specifically for three main reasons. The first is technical; black is one of the most common Lego colors, so there are many different pieces available for him to use. The second is that he simply likes the color. “I think there's something that is so sophisticated, something that is just expansive about black, and then there's also something that is dark and sometimes foreboding or haunting about black. It has so much spectrum to it,” he explained. However, the most important reason is that the beings that he creates are “unequivocally Black. Despite their features or what I may do with them, they'll always be regarded as Black,” he said.

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The Building Blocks of Life

Nimako's sculptures are not just inanimate objects. He imbues them with a sense of life and essence. “There's something that's quite synthetic about them. But it's that synthetic quality that I strive to transcend with life,” he said. Each sculpture takes between 50 to 800 hours to make, and Nimako is never in a rush. He constantly explores new techniques and finds new Lego pieces to make his artworks more dynamic.

Blending Africanfuturism, Afrofuturism, and Afrofantasy

Nimako considers himself a “futurist” who blends Africanfuturism, Afrofuturism, and Afrofantasy in his art. While Africanfuturism focuses on the experience of those on the African continent, Afrofuturism is more focused on the African American experience of looking into the future, drawing from the past and connecting to the continent. In his “Building Black: Civilizations” series, Nimako reimagines medieval sub-Saharan African narratives and brings them into the future.

Imagining a Better Future

Nimako hopes for an inclusive future that acknowledges the history of anti-Black racism and recognizes the role of Afrofuturism in allowing people to envision a better world. “All movements of resistance are rooted in that imagination,” he said. “Even art is a form of resistance and it's been used as a form of resistance for a very long time.”

Building Beyond with Lego

Nimako recently released online kits for his “Building Beyond” workshop, which encourages people to imagine and build representations of their own descendants using Lego. He believes that this can help foster sensitivity and understanding of complex cultures and ethnic groups.

A Lego Documentary

Nimako's work is gaining recognition beyond the art world, including by Lego itself. A Lego documentary based on his work was released in February 2022, and Nimako looks forward to future collaborations with the Lego Group.

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