In early 2021, Aga Khan Museum’s acquisiton of Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE by Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako grabbed headlines around the world. And for a limited time, you will have the opportunity to see the sprawling 30-square-foot sculpture up close in our main-floor gallery when the Museum re-opens later this spring.
Constructed from approximately 100,000 black LEGO® pieces, Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE is Nimako’s Afrofuturistic reimagining of the capital of the medieval Kingdom of Ghana. The sculpture was the unmissable centrepiece of his solo Museum exhibition, 2019’s Building Black: Civilizations.
Now, Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE is the latest contemporary art masterpiece to join the Museum’s Collection. To celebrate, we’re putting it back on display for a limited time in our first-floor Collection Gallery. Marvel at Nimako’s bold creation for the first time, or revisit Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE to see its glittering majesty in a new light.
In Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE, Nimako forges a utopian vision of sub-Saharan Africa 1,000 years in the future. With astounding detail, he uses the medium of LEGO® to explore Afrofuturism, the cultural movement that envisions Black, African, and Afrodiasporic people and narratives through a science-fiction lens. The artwork draws on elements from the past to give scope to the future, while providing an expansive foundation of hope for the next millennia and beyond.
The series was a creative response to the Museum exhibition Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time (originally organized by the Block Museum at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois), which showcased medieval west Africa’s significance in global trade and history, as well as its role in the spread of Islam. Displayed together in the Museum’s second-floor gallery, the two exhibitions wowed audiences from their premiere in September 2019 until their closing five months later.
Ekow Nimako is a Toronto-based, internationally exhibiting LEGO® artist who crafts futuristic and whimsical sculptures from the iconic medium. Rooted in his childhood hobby and intrinsic creativity, Nimako’s formal arts education and background as a lifelong multidisciplinary artist inform his process and signature aesthetic. His fluid building style, coupled with the Afrofuturistic themes of his work, beautifully transcend the geometric material to embody organic and fantastical silhouettes. Nimako has exhibited works in Canada, Germany, Korea, and the United Kingdom.
The Museum wishes to thank Zahoor, Taslim, Zayana, and Amaara Samji for their support in the acquisition of Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE.
France 24, March 30, 2021
"L"Afrique en briques d'Ekow Nimako" (in French)
Hyperallergic, March 29, 2021
"Massive Lego kingdoms that Defy the cultural erasure of Africa’s Medieval civilizations"
CTV News, March 17, 2021
"This artist uses black Lego to make sculptures honouring Ghanaian roots and mythology"
The Africa Report, March 11, 2021
"Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako builds Africa out of Legos
NOW Toronto, March 2, 2021
"Massive Lego creation joins Aga Khan Museum’s collection"
BlogTO, March 1, 2021
"Toronto museum acquires 100k-piece LEGO sculpture of futuristic African city"
Archinet News, February 25, 2021
"100,000-piece gargantuan Afrofuturist lego sculpture acquired by Aga Khan Museum"
The Art Newspaper, February 23, 2021
"Aga Khan Museum acquires massive Lego sculpture of an ancient African metropolis"