Jackson found that the experiences she gained and the relationships she formed with the community at Thread not only informed her practice, but also her sense of self. “I experienced an intense realization of my own privilege of a light-skinned American artist,” she explains. “In America, I am black first and American second, whereas in Senegal I am American first and questionably black. This realization came about because I let myself be challenged by locals and people I still consider to this day as close friends.”
As Thread welcomes McBride this month, along with performance artist Andrew Ondrejcak and writer and journalist Adrian LeBlanc, there is a sense that these connections between visiting artists and the community of Sinthian, based in mutual respect and exchange, will only continue to strengthen.
For his part, McBride will teach music production courses at local community centers. “Over coffee this afternoon, I talked with the main producers and rappers in town, and they have asked me to make beats for them and give their sound engineers techniques in mixing their music,” he tells me. “And tomorrow morning, I’ll teach my first production class.” In return, he’ll spend a week with local musicians, learning to play the djembe and the kora, two instruments native to Senegal.
This kind of creative exchange embodies Thread’s essence. “It is at its heart a project that seeks to expand the heinously narrow appreciation that much of the world has of West Africa and Senegal,” Murphy explains, “and to do so by expanding opportunities for artists to engage with what is one of the world’s most dynamic and diverse art and cultural practices.”