Ekow Nimako doesn’t just build LEGO® structures. He creates ‘monuments to Black youth’, exploring Black identity through a surrealist lens.
Now. If you are thinking “he’s doing all that… with LEGO bricks?”, then that is exactly the reaction Ekow is after.
A huge part of his art is about tackling difficult issues head-on. As he puts it, “Working with LEGO bricks is really important, because I get to breach topics and make them accessible. LEGO bricks are a benign, globally-loved toy. But the topics are not benign.”
A perfect example of this deliberate contradiction (or, as Ekow much more eloquently puts it, ‘cultural polarity’) in action can be found in his stunning ‘Flower Girl’. Made with over 25,000 LEGO pieces and standing at four feet (1.2m) tall, she represents a poignant monument to the victims of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
‘Flower Girl’ is part of Ekow’s internationally-renowned ‘Building Black’ series, inspired by West African civilizations, mythology and traditions. Strikingly, Ekow only uses black LEGO pieces. The reason for this choice stems back to his experiences growing up in Canada to Ghanaian parents, where under-representation was a major issue in the films, cartoons and TV shows he loved.
Ekow’s art now seeks to address that imbalance for the Black children who visit his exhibitions today by promoting positive Black narratives, as with his extraordinary, seven-foot (2.1m) tall ‘Cavalier Noir’.