Dundee Botanic Garden Residency

Dundee Artists in Residence at the Dundee Botanic Garden

For a full account of this residency please go to byleaveswelive.wordpress.com




This series of screen-prints is part of a wider body of work made by Sarah during her residency at the Dundee Botanic Garden, from September 2010 to August 2011. The residency offered the opportunity for an artist to work in the gardens and explore an aspect of the important role that plants play in our lives. Sarah chose to look at issues of food sustainability through the lens of a single plant: rice. 

Rice can be found growing near the pond in the Garden’s temperate glasshouse. It is a very humble-looking member of the grass family and can be easily overlooked, yet this plant is of enormous importance to humanity. The ancient Indian name for rice is dhanya, meaning ‘sustainer of the human race,’1 and today rice is the staple food of two thirds of the world’s population.2

 The screen-prints in Thali Series show six stages in the traditional cultivation of rice, still practised by small-scale paddy farmers today. The stages are in separate dishes, together making up a whole, like the individual parts of a thali meal. In the first image the paddy is ploughed, the plough drawn by a water buffalo. Seedlings, grown in a small nursery field, are then carried to the paddy and planted by hand in the mud. The field needs tending and weeding until it comes time to harvest the paddy with a sickle. The seeds are separated from the stalks by threshing, in this image cows are being herded to thresh the crop. The seeds are then pounded to break the husks. In the final image the woman is winnowing the grain – throwing the contents of the husking pestle up into the air so that the husks are blown away and the rice falls to the ground.

Other images that emerge from Sarah’s research encounter complex issues such as:

  • The difficulties facing small-scale paddy farmers encouraged to turn towards engineered seed grown with high chemical inputs, and the movements that work to preserve the hundreds of rice varieties and methods of cultivation that are endangered by these pressures.

  • The positive and negative possibilities of ‘Golden Rice,’ genetically engineered to contain beta carotene, to tackle Vitamin A Deficiency.

  • The problems faced by paddy farmers in Haiti, who cannot sell their rice at a price to compete with highly subsidised imports.


A complete set of the prints, together with a talk narrating the research and residency experience can be found on Sarah’s blog: byleaveswelive.wordpress.com

For further information about D-AiR (Dundee Artists in Residence) please go to: www.d-air.org

1From: Rice (6th Edition), Grist D. H., Longman, London, 1986



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