"Bathe Me In Blood" | Single channel video | 02:00 | New Orleans, USA | (Commissioned by The Wexner Center)
The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.
In remembering godhood, I had to be covered in blood.
I knew this before I knew what I was. The ritual made its way into a list I wrote when I was seventeen, of things to do before I died, and that was the first time I received the instruction.
Ten years later, I read the last verse of the poem “Rite” by Henry Dumas, excerpted in Toni Morrison’s The Black Book. I wept and wept at the last two lines because I knew the feeling.
No power can stay the mojo/ when the obi is purple
and the vodu is green/ and Shango is whispering,
Bathe me in blood./ I am not clean.
That was the second time. Years after that, an oríkì for Ogun that I read as a child in Nigeria returns to me through one of his own. He who has water but bathes with blood. That was the third time. I did not wait for a fourth.
As death stroked a little harder across the world, I walked into the standstill, across railroad tracks and through a forest with a red command on my head. I am not clean. The lake was a silver mirror whispering on a secret beach. Bathe me in blood.
I knelt down and obeyed.