Now Or Never

Building black: Turning a childhood obsession with Lego into incredible art

Toronto artist Ekow Nimako has carried his childhood obsession with Lego into his adult years - and has built a burgeoning career as a Lego artist. Today, his creations look at ideas of black identity, afrofuturism and childhood nostalgia.
(Photo by Janick Laurent)

Imagine if you never stopped playing with the toys you had as a kid.

Toronto artist Ekow Nimako has done just that. He's carried his childhood obsession with Lego well into his adult years — and has built a burgeoning career as a Lego artist.

The Places We Make Art: Ekow Nimako

5 years ago
Duration 1:31
In the first episode of The Places We Make Art, a new CBC Arts web series, Ekow Nimako invites you inside the place where you'll always find him playing with Lego: his Toronto apartment.

Nimako's interest in the building blocks began when his Ghanaian-Canadian family moved to London, Ont. There, he began to experience what he says were "extreme and subtle forms of racism that I still recall with regrettable accuracy." 

Nimako told Now or Never host Ify Chiwetelu that he spent a lot of time alone in front of the television as a kid. There, he'd spread out a Kente cloth (a piece of Ghanaian fabric) and build for hours. His first Lego creations were characters from shows like Transformers and Thundercats

Today, his creations have become bigger and bolder. Much of his work explores ideas of black identity, afrofuturism and childhood nostalgia. Nimako says that he hopes people are surprised when they encounter his pieces, and realize that beneath the building blocks are some challenging political statements. 

"There's a lot of people who are doing really cool things with Lego," said Nimako, "but there's not a lot of political statements."

"When they engage my work, it'll be a little different. Little Johnny might see something he wasn't expecting to see."