“I found that we have beautiful stones in Benin. Stones that can be used to create art. Using stones protect the environment in a sustainable manner unlike woods that involves the destruction of trees. Millions of trees are cut down each year to make ornamental works and also serve as firewood, which accelerates global warming and has harmful consequences for the survival of humanity.” – Charly Djikou
Charly Djikou discovered sculpture early in life. At 9 years old, he was a Bachégué (boy of the street). He moved from neighborhood to neighborhood, from street to street without a definite goal. Wishing to escape the banditry and losing interest in begging to survive, he started drawing hairdressing studios he sees in his daily life.
He saw that he could make a living off his work; he pitched and sold braid drawings for the hairdressers to hang in their salon walls. He went from salon to salon, offering his services, and was rejected a lot of times. But, each day, he completed 2 to 3 drawings for 500 CFA francs each.
Mr. Djikou moved to Vossa, a lake district in the 6th district of Cotonou. There, he began experimenting with clay, giving his drawing form. He was imitating the potters around. He also started observing woodcarving, which he then took up himself.
Years later, he started his transitioning into stone sculpting because of the environmental implications. Also, with stone, Charly Djikou found that his work will remain forever, eternal. And thanks to the abundance of rock material in Benin which were only used for construction, he had a lot of materials to work on, perfect his craft, and commercialize his work.
He met the late Dari, a renowned sculpter who took him under his wing as an apprentice. Charly worked with Dari and was able to get the commission to sculpt the Toussaint Louverture Momument, which currently stands in Allada, Benin at the age of 17. The project had been inititally given to Dari; but Dari passed it to Charly.
Charly Djikou is now renowned for his sculptures. In 1999, he sculpted the altar of the basilica of Dassa, a 60-ton piece.
Charly Djikou was one of the first two visual artists hosted in residence at Le Centre, a cultural center in Lobozounkpa, a municipality of Abomey- Calavi.