Aga Khan Museum

Toronto museum acquires 100k-piece LEGO sculpture of futuristic African city

Toronto's Aga Khan Museum has announced the acquisition of a 100,000-piece LEGO sculpture titled Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE. As the name suggests, the piece depicts the ancient city as a thriving metropolis 1,000 years into the future.

The 30-square-foot sculpture was originally commissioned by the museum as part of artist Ekow Nimako's exhibit, Building Black: Civilizations which ran from November 2019 to February 2020. Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE served as the exhibit's centrepiece and will now have a permanent home in the museum.

Nimako is a Toronto-based Ghanian-Canadian artist who has turned his childhood love for LEGO into a way of expressing himself through art.

"I imagined a futuristic city but gave it the name of a medieval city that was in the medieval empire of Ghana," said Nimako during a lecture hosted by Aga Khan museum.

"So I felt a lot more connected in that way because it was almost like carrying on this tradition of taking something from the past and giving it life in the future."

Although the museum has remained closed since November, the sculpture is set to go on display when Aga Khan reopens later this year. 

Museum curator Michael Chagnon said that Nimako being a Toronto-based artist was absolutely critical to their decision to acquire the piece.

"Since our opening in 2014, the Museum has been proud to serve as a cultural hub for our immediate neighbourhood and the GTA," Chagnon explained to blogTO. "An important part of that work has been to collaborate with local artists and to highlight the global significance of their practices."

"Ekow's sculptures, and particularly Kumbi Saleh, speak in a fundamental way to the question of identity and history, to the need for expanding dialogue across perceived cultural divisions, to the importance of listening intently one another. That sort of vision in turn helps us tell stories of global relevance. "

Once it again becomes safe to visit museums, there's no doubt that this piece will attract history lovers, futurists, and LEGO fanatics looking to see the intricate display up close. According to Chagnon, Nimako's piece was a highlight for visitors prior to the lockdown and he expects it will be again while on display in the Spring.

"The response was as overwhelming as the sculpture itself. Kumbi Saleh is a massive work, made of 100,000 glittering black LEGO bricks, and it announces itself immediately as something momentous and inspired," said Chagnon. 

"As you get closer to it, your eyes and mind wander through its buildings, bridges, towers, canals, and surrounding landscape, and you get lost in a universe separate from the here and now.

"Knowing its cultural and social significance only deepens the experience. Many visitors I spoke with said that they left feeling that they had experienced something joyous and awesome."

In what has been a gloomy year since the city shut down back in March 2020, experiencing some joy and awesomeness will be a welcome sight for all.

Lead photo by

Connie Tsang

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