Building Black Civilizations: Journey of 2000 Ships continues artist Ekow Nimako’s afrofuturistic reimagining of ancient African kingdoms. Using LEGO® bricks as his medium, Nimako explores the mysterious 14th century sea voyage of Mansa Abu Bakr II, the 9th CE ruler of the ancient empire of Mali. According to legends, Mansa, an intrepid explorer, abdicated his throne and took 2,000 ships on an expedition into the Atlantic, but was never to return or heard from again. Some accounts suggest the massive fleet reached as far as the Americas, but where they went beyond this is still unknown.
Combining architecture, historical accounts, and fantastical possibilities, Nimako transcends the geometric form of LEGO® to recreate Mansa’s epic voyage. And in doing so, he presents an uninterrupted and uncoopted narrative of Black civilizations and imagines liberated futures.
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 medium to embody organic and fantastical silhouettes.
His large-scale public installations include the monumental Cavalier Noir (Nuit Blanche, 2018, which features a seven-foot Black rider atop a dauntless Black unicorn. Conteptualization in collaboration with Director X, the piece subverts the dominant imagination of public monuments and centres Black narratives.