Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako builds Africa out of Legos

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“Kumbi Saleh 3020CE”, work by Ekow Nimako, at the Toronto Museum © Connie Tsang / Toronto Museum

Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako creates monumental works out of simple Lego bricks that celebrate black civilizations. The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada has just acquired a creation comprising 100,000 black pieces!

In the 4th century, Koumbi Saleh was the flamboyant capital of the kingdom of Ghana. It was a trading town on the west coast, located along the road linking North Africa to sub-Saharan Africa, which is said to have served as a salt and gold depository. Koumbi Saleh was destroyed in 1240 by the Malian emperor Soundiata Keïta. Archaeological excavations undertaken at the beginning of the 20th century confirm that it was located in the south of present-day Mauritania.

However, we are talking about it today because the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto has just acquired a phantasmagorical representation of the city, in the form of a 3m2 model. A model? Not really, actually. More like a work of art. The creation is called Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE and is by Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako. What’s so special about it? The fact that it was made entirely from some 100,000 black Lego pieces!


The sculpture, commissioned by the museum, was part of the exhibition Building Black: Civilisations by Nimako, and was linked to another exhibition – an archaeological one – held at the same museum entitled Caravans of gold, fragments in time. For curator Michael Chagnon, acquiring the piece “strengthens the museum’s ability to tell global stories about the contributions of Islamic civilisations through time.” For Nimako, it is an opportunity to make his work on identity and black civilisations more well known.

Androids and cyborgs

Representing the town of Koumbi Saleh as it would look like a thousand years from now, the work acquired by the museum gives an initial idea of the motifs that inspired the artist. Nimako approves of using the term “Afrofuturism” to describe his works, given his fascination for robots, androids and cyborgs!

Using exclusively Lego pieces, a passion he has had since childhood, naturally reinforces this. Their cube-like dimensions make it difficult to reproduce curves and give his creations a definite robotic aspect. But that hasn’t stopped Nimako from creating birds, jellyfish, masks and even characters with braided hair.

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