Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako has been fascinated with Lego since he was four years old.
But for the last seven years, the 41-year-old artist been using thousands of black Lego bricks to build intricate monochromatic sculptures of East African gods, futuristic cities and masks – all of which are featured in galleries and museums around the world.
“There is something that is appealing about black because it mutes the Lego-ness if that makes sense,” he told CTVNews.ca in a video interview from his home in Toronto. “It takes away the aspect of Lego as this colourful toy and presents it more as like a sculptural medium.”
His past works include gryphon-like creatures, bucking winged horses, warrior queens riding elephants, majestically posed bandits, intricate face masks, cherubs and insects — all made entirely in obsidian-coloured building blocks.
“I also find it’s a great way for me to depict the ethnicity of my sculptures.”
With pieces taking between 50 and 800 hours to make, he masterfully uses them to look ahead, exploring the concept of Afrofuturism – an aesthetic that blends the African diaspora culture with technology. But he also uses the sculptures to look back and reimagine East African folklore, artifacts and architecture.
Much of Nimako’s Ghanaian roots and culture are infused into his pieces, with him also being inspired by West African proverbs.
“When I would hear them sometimes, there would be images that would come to my mind. And I start thinking about the life of some of these creatures and beings that are depicted in these stories about life,” he said.
His arresting pieces have been featured in South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany, as well as in his hometown of Scarborough — where his works were featured in the Nuit Blanche arts festival in Toronto in 2018.
After Nimako’s sculptures were featured in the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto last year, it outright acquired his piece “Kumbi Salah 3020 C.E.” — a staggering 2.7 square metre, 100,000-brick futuristic metropolis that takes its name from a real ancient city in Ghana.
That principle of blending the future with the past is a running theme throughout his work. He explained when modern-day Ghana gained its independence in 1957, it took its name from the medieval kingdom of Ghana in West Africa where Mali and Mauritania are now.
“When it looked towards the future, it reached into the past to give itself a new name. I did the same thing by reaching into the past and getting inspiration from the actual city to create my own version of a utopia depicted 1,000 years into the future.”
The cityscape is part of his critically-acclaimed “Building Black: Civilizations” exhibit, which reimagines and re-conceptualizes real cities or societies. Meanwhile, pieces from his “Building Black: Amorphia” collection combines West African mask-making with intricate animal and fauna to create amorphous and fantastical masks, including one acquired by Global Affairs Canada.
IT’S IMPORTANT THAT WE RECLAIM OUR STORIES: NIMAKO
Throughout his life he’s been continually inspired by his first Lego set, which included an miniature astronaut looking up at the cosmos. But it was during art school in 2014 when Nimako found an outlet for his childhood love of Lego, building sculptures out of the tiny blocks.
“I started building different creatures and really trying to transcend the iconic presence of Lego and really approach it as a sculptural material,” he said, chuckling that “and of course, over the years, as I had my daughters, I was buying parts for them buying LEGO sets for them, so my collection just kind of kept growing.”
Nimako is in the middle of creating a human-sized Lego sculpture of the trickster god Anansi from West African, African–American and Caribbean folklore. The god was featured heavily in writer Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and played by Orlando Jones in the TV series of the same name.
Nimako said part of building black Lego art entails a level of reclamation of past depictions of gods, symbols and iconography from the African continent.
“When I, as a Ghanaian man, am creating artwork about our own culture and our own cultural icons, it’s important that we do reclaim… all of these stories as much as we can, so that there is more of authentic storytelling that’s taking place.”
Although he credits his culture for much of his inspiration, from the masks and figurines he saw in people’s homes growing up, “at the same time there’s still a process of discovery.”
Nimako said he fully intends to visit Ghana when the pandemic is over and learn about symbols and icons he’s less familiar with.
He said the goal is to “actually speak to some of the people who are the keepers of these oral traditions in these stories, and actually get it from the source, so that I can bring them into my artworks with like a deeper sense of history and understanding.”
Source link : https://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/this-artist-uses-black-lego-to-make-sculptures-honouring-ghanaian-roots-and-mythology-1.5350743
Publish date : 2021-03-17 15:21:00