Saadio: Artist Resume


About Saadio And His Work

Saadio was born Mamadou Sadio Diallo, in Dakar, in 1965. He grew up in a neighborhood with a strong community of Cape Verdeans, many of whom were billboard painters. Every day, he watched them create colorful pieces advertising “coca-cola,” a “kodak” studio or a barber’s shop. That’s where he “caught the painting bug” (to use his own expression). 

He quit school in his teenage years to work a variety of jobs including tile layer, house painter, shoemaker, trash collector and waiter until, by a twist of fate, he was hired as a telephone operator in a company located across from the studio of famous artist Kalidou Kassé, also known as le Pinceau du Sahel (“the paintbrush of the Sahel”). For five years, Saadio crossed the street every day to have tea with the artist and his assistants. In 1997, his boss gave him an ultimatum: it was “them” or his job! He chose them.

By this point, he was already painting murals and becoming one of Senegal’s street art precursors. When his mentor left six months later for a project in the US, Saadio joined the studio of Kre Mbaye on the island of N’gor. He trained there for four years, became artistic director in charge of the N’gor art festival, and started exhibiting his own work. Dakar, Venice, Paris, Zaragoza… his career was launched. In 2006, after 15 years of artistic practice, he had an epiphanic encounter with Jean-Michel Basquiat that revolutionized his approach: he suddenly noticed the vivid graffiti all around him and embraced it, transforming his art.

Saadio is inspired by his environment, current events, and most of all by what he sees on the walls of Dakar. These are covered with posters advertising events and graffiti that read like a book - a child writing their first letters, a mechanic jotting numbers while on the phone, a cook advertising her restaurant, a vendor calculating how much money his client still owes. Saadio finds beauty in this palimpsest. The artist records a way of life that is disappearing with the advance of technology and the internet : selfies are replacing photo studios and events are announced on social media. Saadio also uses his art to comment on society and politics. In 2011, he actively participated in the ‘Y en a Marre’ (‘Fed Up’) campaign led by Senegalese rappers and journalists to protest ineffective government and increase youth voter registration. The movement is credited with helping to oust incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade. 

Saadio uses acrylic and markers on canvas and paper. His colors are bold and his palette extensive. Like on an Ancient Egyptian low-relief, his main characters are out of scale and as if etched on a wall surface. And yet, the police officer directing traffic, the photographer trying to snap your portrait, the street vendor pushing his trolley, or the soldier standing guard... all exude a powerful energy as they navigate the bustling street life around them with scooters and Car Rapides zooming by, stray dogs looking for food, or a plane flying overhead.

The negative space is filled with sketched symbols and lines. These both add context and impart vibrancy to the painting. The symbols are inspired by Dogon and Fulani ideograms, as well as by the designs found on bogolan (the handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud). They represent a codified language that is only understood by the initiates. Saadio remembers seeing his mother paint them on the walls of their house when he was young. He researched these symbols and trained with the artist collective Groupe Bogolan Kasobané in Segou (Mali). 

Today, he uses symbols primarily for their aesthetic appearance, and has borrowed or created some of his own:

  • The figure 50 - his favorite number. He loves to write it everywhere. Fifty francs CFA is the coin that is usually given for alms in Senegal. It is also the cost of a cup of coffee.
  • The crown - adopted after he discovered it in Basquiat’s work. The crown resonated with Saadio because he is a prince, the descendant of Almamy Boubacar Biro, ruler of the state of Fouta Djallon (in modern Guinea) at the end of the 19th century and a scholar and resistance fighter against French colonialism.
  • The bird -  symbol of his people, the Fulani, who are traditionally nomadic. Birds and Fulani “migrate.”

Saadio’s work has been exhibited in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, Spain and the USA, as well as in Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, and is featured in numerous collections. His paintings hang in the Musée Boribana in Senegal, and in the Museo de Bellas Artes of Murcia in Spain. In 2015, he painted Senegal’s largest mural in partnership with the artist Barkinado Bocoum.

Exhibitions

Solo exhibitions

2019
Galerie Op der Kap, Mamer, Luxemburg
On the Road Again, Out of Africa Gallery, Sitges (Barcelona), Spain
Taxi Bamako, Bamako, Mali
2018
Dak’art OFF, Dakar, Senegal 
Taxi Bamako, Bamako, Mali
2017
Taxi Bamako, Bamako, Mali
Museo de Bellas Artes, Murcia , Spain
City Trip, Out of Africa Gallery, Sitges (Barcelona), Spain 
2016
Dak'Art OFF, Villa 126, Dakar, Senegal
2015
Zein'Art Gallery, Nouakchott, Mauritania
Le Parcours, British Council, Dakar, Senegal
2014
Alliance française, Zinguichor, Senegal
Dak'Art OFF, Villa 126, Dakar, Senegal
2012
Académie des Arts, Herzele,  Belgium
Dak’art OFF, Agence Senegambie, Dakar, Senegal
2007
Pounder-Kone Art Space, Los Angeles, USA
Le Constat, Musée Boribana, Dakar, Senegal
 

Collective exhibitions

2020
Dakar Women's Group, Senegal 
2019
African Art Beats opening exhibit, Washington, DC, USA
On the Road Again - Duo Show, Out of Africa Gallery, Sitges (Barcelona), Spain
Dakar Women's Group, Senegal
2018
Duo Show, Dak'Art OFF, Villa 126, Dakar, Senegal
2017
Dakar-Bamako, Medina Gallery, Bamako, Mali
Museo de Bellas Artes, Murcia, Spain
Dakar Women’s Group, Senegal
2016
Dak’Art OFF, Dakar, Senegal 
Urban Jungles, Le Parcours, Mauro Petroni, Dakar, Senegal
2015
Dakar Women's Group, Dakar, Senegal
Regards sur Cour, Gorée, Dakar, Senegal
2014
Dak’Art OFF, Villa 126, Dakar, Senegal
Dakar Women's Group, Senegal
Regards sur Cour, Gorée, Dakar, Senegal
2013
Regards sur Cour, Gorée, Senegal 
2012
One Night for Dakar, Fine Arts School, Herzele, Belgium
Dak’Art OFF, Dakar, Senegal
Académie 45 Arts, Herzele, Belgium
Dakar Women’s Group, Senegal 
2011
Joko Festival, N'gor Island, Senegal
XEX ART Festival, Dakar City Hall, Senegal
85th Anniversary exhibition of Société Eiffage, Dakar, Senegal
Regards sur Cour, Gorée, Senegal
Dakar Women’s Group, Senegal
Exhibit in Freiburg, Germany 
2010
Fundraising exhibition in favor of the earthquake victims, Walu, Haïti
Artistic Get Together with Artists from Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, France, Economic Community of West African States, New African Initiative States, Institut national des Arts, Bamako, Mali
Dak’Art OFF, Agora Space, Dakar, Senegal 
2009
Dakar Women’s Group, Senegal 
2008
Universal Exhibition, French Pavillion, Zaragoza, Spain
Dak’Art OFF, Canal Horizon, Dakar, Senegal
Dak’Art OFF, Arte Gallery, Dakar, Senegal
FESMIR (Festival Miroir International), Dakar, Senegal 
2007
Dakar Women’s Group, Senegal
2006
Dak’Art OFF, N'gor Island, Senegal
2004
Galerie Africaine - Aude Minart, Paris, France
2002
Galerie Bleue, Venice, Italy
CAEDES (Wives Committee of Accredited Diplomats in Senegal), Dakar, Senegal 
2001
Groupe Sonatel, Dakar, Senegal
2000
Galerie Bleue (Medina), Dakar, Senegal
1999
International Fair of Young Visual Artists, National Gallery, Dakar, Senegal 
1997
Artists’ studios on N'gor Island, Senegal 
1994
Centre culturel Blaise Senghor, Dakar, Senegal 

 

Catalogs

Musée Boribana, Dakar, Senegal
Museo de Bellas Artes, Murcia, Spain  

Collections


Museo de Bellas Artes, Murcia, Spain
Musée Boribana, Dakar, Senegal,
Société Eiffage

Presidency of Mali, Mali

Pounder-Kone Art Space, Los Angeles, USA
Embassies of Great Britain and Spain in Senegal

Private collections

 

Auctions

PIASA, Paris (2019)

 

Back to Saadio's artworks