At an early age, Saidou Dicko (born 1979 in Burkina Faso) realised that he could see clouds not only in the sky but also in the sands of his home town. As a young Fulani shepherd, he looks into the red sands of the Sahel and traces the pillowy shadows cast by the migrating clouds above. First the outlines of his sheep, later the silhouettes of people, all are captured vividly by Dicko on the walls of houses or on the colourful fabrics embroidered by his mother. These shadows remain the core element of his visual storytelling – spanning across his photography, film, installation work and painting.
“As a child, I looked at them (shadows) the way others look at clouds, and invented stories. I started by drawing on the floor and walls, then on fabrics that my mother embroidered,”
In his early series of works, THE SHADOW THIEF, he follows his family and friends with a mobile phone camera, tracing their paths and action. But the shadow thief does not rob these people’s identity; instead, the alienation of these perspective-broken silhouettes bring us closer to the intimate gestures of the people depicted – emphasizing the role of childlike play, hard work, and the complex yet familiar family dynamic. Here, abstraction is adopted in the artist’s work as a trick to draw the viewer’s attention more intently to the social contexts in each scene. We see the characters at petrol stations, sat in conversation on the porches of houses, or riding their bicycles through the capital city of Ouagadougou.
Now living and working in Paris, Dicko has taken this abstraction to the next level. In his latest works, he dips the figures in his photographs in black oil, building another layer into the image, tangible in its physicality. Anonymising the subjects through thick brushstrokes, he breaks down the concept of the individual, democratising his characters by removing key societal indicators such as age, wealth and faith. Dicko’s dynamic compositions play out against a background of colourful textiles, the likes of which hark to the beginning of his artistic career and practice. A world of lyrical storytelling in which people are far more than just shadows is then created seamlessly before the viewer’s eyes, an invitation to engage with the characters on a deeper level, to put yourself in his place and – to enter his contoured universe (=Umrissene Welten).
Dicko has been shown in various international exhibitions, collections and museums, gaining acclaim across these multiple exhibitions and shows.