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Dak’Art 2014: Interview with Saïdou Dicko

Saïdou Dicko is an artist who lives and works in Paris, France. From an early age, whilst herding sheep in the Sahel, he learnt to draw and was inspired by the shadows cast by the sheep on the desert landscape. In 2005, after twenty years of painting, the self-taught artist moved into the mediums of photography and film-making continuing his exploration of shadows. Exhibitions include Dak’Art OFF (2006) Le Voleur D’Ombre (2007) Moroccan Pavillion, Dak’art OFF (2014) and International Biennial of Casablanca (2014). As part of the Dak’art series, 1:54 interviewed the artist.

Let’s begin with the beginning. How did you decide on art?

It happened in a very natural way, I didn’t really decide anything. I began working as a shepherd at the age of four, and it was during this time spent herding that I started to draw the shadows of animals.

Shadows are a recurrent fascination in your work, how did this interest come about?

When you observe a shadow its form presents itself, and yet at the same time you have to visualise its responding figure. A shadow makes its objective-self disappear. A person’s shadow suggests a human being and nothing else. This is what drew me to shadows. Over time, they have remained a predominant theme in my work, and they are explored through painting, photography or video.

Your introduction to art was through drawing and yet you are perhaps best known for your photographic works. When did you begin to experiment with photography as a medium?

Initially, I would mostly draw or paint. I wanted to implement photography as a way of painting with a camera. When I take a photograph, I first select the background then decide on the subject. I may fix upon a woman, a child, a man, a couple or perhaps two people – which may then become a couple, or a family, which form the portrait. The camera allows me to tell a story.

You have spoken about your immediate sources of inspiration, including situational aspects like light sources and pedestrians. Were you influenced by any specific artists?

As I started painting and photography without making a conscious decision, it wasn’t until a little later that I would find myself having conversations with people about my work, when I became exposed to contemporary art. My first public exhibition was through participating in the Dak’Art Biennale in 2006. Since then the shadow works have been widely exhibited.

Could you speak about the process composing or framing an image?

It’s not a great intent or direction. I tend to walk the streets and select a background that way. Occasionally I’ll stop to let people pass by and pretend that I’m playing with my Game Boy. As an observer, I steal shadows, which is why some people refer to me as the ‘shadow thief’.

You use a digital camera in order to construct your images. How do you go about editing your images, if at all?

I use a digital camera because I like the feature of the screen. It makes the whole process more efficient and immediate. My photographs are neither reframed nor edited, the images are raw. I also use continuous shooting, as it allows me to capture movement in its entirety, they are so-called ‘stolen’ images.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a video installation for the Casablanca Biennial that will be held in Morocco this coming October.

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