Zoë Lescaze is a New York-based author and artist interested in the crossroads of human culture and the natural world. Her residency in Senegal was primarily devoted to baobab trees and their role, both traditional and contemporary, in the lives of people in the Serer heartland. These trees, which grow to be immense and hollow with age, have been used for centuries as meeting places, ritual sites, as sources of food and medicine, and as the tombs of griots, the praise singers, oral historians, gossips, and bards of many pre- colonial and contemporary West African societies. Curiosity regarding the connection between the trees and this caste of myth keepers inspired several weeks of research in central Senegal. With the generous support of Thread and its relentlessly encouraging and adaptable staff, Lescaze was able to interview local chiefs, griots, village elders, religious figures, and their families about the enduring and fading cultural qualities of the baobab. Their oral testimony, combined with her commentary and historical context, will form the basis of a book illustrated by drawings, paintings, and photographs. Lescaze also plans to adapt the content into a radio program with the intention that it might be shared in local languages.
While based at Thread, Lescaze found inspiration for a site-specific installation in the local practice of using upended glass bottles to demarcate gardens and paths. She collected more than one hundred castoff beer, vinegar, and wine bottles from Sinthian and the nearby village of Saal and used them to extend and echo the shadow of a dead tree in the unofficial sculpture garden inaugurated by previous residents. The project was an experiment for the artist, who had not previously worked on that scale, and an extension of her interest in the confluence of the organic and the manmade.