When I first saw this magnificent LEGO sculpture by Ekow Nimako, I knew it had to be his. The elegant, all-black theme is his trademark. But what I didn’t realize is that this is much more than a beautiful fictitious character. This is Anansi, an important deity in West African mythos. Ekow has a wonderful talent for pulling you in and inspiring you to look further, both literally and figuratively. So I’m here to share the gift of what I learned… and you might want to zoom in.
Anansi means “spider” in the Akan language, and that is why he is depicted with eight limbs. In his mythos, he is cunning and full of wit, and therefore seen as a trickster. He is also creative and wise, and in one of his most prominent tales, uses other characters to buy all the stories in the world from the sky-god, Nyame. Hence the “god of the knowledge of stories” part. His tales and the rich culture behind them have been passed down through generations, and the folklore can be seen in West Africa, America, and the Caribbean. (Unfortunately, the slave trade is the reason for the spread.) Therefore, Anansi is an icon of African culture, particularly in Ghana where his story began. He is a symbol of the oral history and tradition of a people.
The coolest part about Ekow’s build is that it’s his interpretation. Anansi has been depicted in many forms and more often than not he is more spider than human, although his actions and interactions are highly anthropomorphized. Ekow often depicts his characters as children, making this LEGO sculpture even more special. This childlike version of Anansi is a vision for the next generation. It’s poignant in that children, our future, are messengers for the past. They are tasked with remembering their roots and preserving heritage through these cherished stories.
Now that I’ve given this art an explanation it deserves and shared the rich symbolism behind it, I want to take a moment to return to the build itself. The execution is epic. The ability to create organic shapes and articulated limbs is a pure gift, and you’re really going to have to take a closer look to appreciate it yourself. My favorite parts are the shape of the head, the hair, and the Technic and Bionicle used for the adornments. Gorgeous perfection.
While you’re here, you should take a look at our interview with Ekow Nimako, as well as some of Ekow’s other work we’ve featured. If you’d like to learn more about Anansi (and there is lots more to learn!) you can start with the Anansi Wikipedia page.