A Spell for Protection by Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf

A Spell for Protection

Chapter 1

A shudder. A sob. A tightness of jaw. 

Two eggs, plus one yolk
Half a teaspoon of baking powder
Three quarters of a cup of plain flour

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
A moment. A breath. A tightness of chest.

One quarter cup of cocoa powder
Two thirds of a cup of light brown sugar
Three hundred grams of dark chocolate 

Add numbness to sweetness. 

A pinch of salt distilled from half a thousand years of ancestral weeping. Maldon flakes are also sufficient.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4/160C fan. Daydream for a while. Be taken by a fugue state of collective grief as it unfurls into thick black sublimating curls and delicately steep in white tears and sheer exhaustion.

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.  

Add four tablespoons of butter to a homemade bain-marie. Heat up the water and take a moment to consider the expanse of universe contained between the bowl and pan. 

To your melting butter add (dependent on mood or requirement):
– Two freshly crushed green cardamom pods and send a vibe to a desired one
– A small pinch of saffron as a wish for prosperity 
– Two cloves to keep your name brave, true and away from the mouths of fools
– One whole star anise for clarity of focus and resilience of breath 

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.  

Roughly break two hundred and fifty grams of dark chocolate and gently melt into thoughts of monoculture, land-ownership and labour practices. Think of under-development and impoverishment. Think of hearts as they cease to beat. Of bodies and future bloodlines broken for sugar and the house that Henry Tate built. Use a metal spoon to gently mix. NB: wooden spoons often retain moisture from previous uses. Like the descendants of the African diaspora, they never forget the meaning of water. Temper temper. If your mixture seizes, revive with the tiniest drops of water and mix until soothed. 

Set the chocolate aside to cool. 

Beat the eggs and sugar. Use your frustration to create resplendent foam that leaves a trail of softly formed peaks. Pour in the melted mixture. Fold and stir gently. 

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.  

Look for the colours of Jupiter in the chocolate, butter, egg and sugar mix. Here be swirls of caramel and glossed brown clouds. 

Sidebar: Derived from the Latin Luppiter and hypothesized to have come from the proto-Italic djous and pater. Let the tip of the tongue take a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at two, on the teeth. Bring together memories of language and histories together until it clicks. Listen.  

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.

In this moment I call for the breath of Asase Yaa, the mother of my father and all of his mothers who are now gone into the ether. I call to figments of loved ones lost and never known. Internally I fall into a loop. A moment. A breath. A tightness of fist. 

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return
Genesis 3:19, King James Version, y’all.

In a separate bowl whisk futility, anger, flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt.

Break up 50 grams of black and dark chocolate. Dust with flour and cocoa. Set to one side.

As slowly as the march of progress add your dry ingredients to the bowl of chocolate and gloss. Add two thirds of your broken chocolate and fold. A note: Like Rose Armitage and performative allies, the trick is not to overmix.

Line a warm tray with baking parchment. Pour in your mix. Press in the remainder of your chocolate pieces lightly into the batter. 

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.
Bake. For about 20 mins.

Recite your silent prayers for the dead. Name them one by one. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt flakes on your brownies as they cool. Throw any wasted over your left shoulder.

Heat a carving knife with freshly boiled water. Dismantle oppressive and exclusionary systems. Set your brownies to cool. I promise by the time you’re done eating it, you’ll feel right as rain.


Chapter 2

I die in my dreams. It aches and it hurts. When we self-isolated, I would wake up unable to breathe. Locked in false awakenings and dreams of the same places. I turned to alueromancy to heal from sadness. My child tells me to be careful of “the virus”. She and I are bonded by placenta and milk. Oxytocin and mitochondrial DNA shared through matrilineal reproduction. There is an unbroken line that runs through us and passes on stories of epigenetic encounters.

A mother’s kiss
A moment of lightness
A sacrament formed of love and code

Substantia Nigra Pars Compacta. 

We repeat like déjà vu or a stuck record. 
Have you seen The Matrix?
Do you remember when the Oracle gave Neo a cookie?

The Interior world of the Matrix is shown as a green running script. She, the Oracle, is positioned as magical and maternal but she, like we, is made of function and code that is designed to elicit a specific outcome. We repeat like a stuck record or déjà vu.

Later, we find out that in their world there is no such thing as déjà vu. In our world the same thing just happens again and again. 

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.  

The Scarman Report, the Macpherson Inquiry, the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel. We see it in Grenfell, in the mistreatment of the now ageing generation who came to rebuild, and in those who die at a disproportionate rate.

A wave of empathy and cortisol spreads via osmosis shared through fingertips, black squares, green hearts, algorithms and a deep tiredness and the inability to finish a thought. Our bodies shut down in psychosomatic mutiny and stress responses. Our brains skip like a stuck record. It aches and it hurts and we can’t breathe. We keep on keeping on. A leitmotif of trauma that spans across generations and cuts through the bodies of water where bones became sand and the seas are filled with the salt of ancestral bleeding. 

A moment of lightness:

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.    

Do you remember when the Oracle gave Neo a cookie? She tells him that by the time he is done eating he will feel right as rain. This cookie is positioned as magical, but the interior world of the Matrix is shown as a green running script that is designed to elicit a specific outcome. Numbness and sweetness. A moment of protection.

Inhale. Exhale. Stretch. Repeat.

Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf is an early career producer and artist whose practice focuses on performance, audio and moving image in non-gallery contexts. She has produced discursive works, collaborations and research projects and has done so in partnership with the Showroom, Raven Row, Peckham Platform and PS/Y. Nephertiti has developed and delivered mid to large-scale exhibitions and programmes with the Royal College of Art with the BFI, LUX and the Picturehouse Cinema Group. Since 2017, she has worked as Producer for Larry Achiampong, coordinating multi-disciplinary and multi-site projects with partners including Transport for London’s Art on the Underground, Waltham Forest, the Singapore Biennale, Somerset House and Primary Nottingham.