What: On the table, a huge cake, with a smooth shiny black surface, in the form of a caricatured African female body, sans legs. Naked, splayed on its back, it is composed of crotch, belly mound, large pendulous breasts held by truncated stick arms, a row of neck rings. Where the neck rings end, a living human head rears up through a hole in the table. The head belongs to the kneeling body of a man. It is tricked out in exaggerated blackface –large white circles around the eyes, drawn-on cartoon red mouth and pointed teeth.
Sweden's female Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth, approaches the cake with a knife in her hand. She performs a simulated clitoridectomy, cutting the first slice from the crotch, to reveal a moist spongy red interior. The head of the body moans and shrieks with pain. A roomful of white Swedes, men and women, laugh and applaud. Cameras flash. In the photographs, faces appear alive, avidly entertained, as the minister feeds the slice she has cut to the grinning head. More people cut and eat slices of the cake body, dismembering it. The head moans, yells, screams with each knife-stroke.
Why: To raise awareness about genital mutilation in Africa
Who: Makode Linde who is Afro Swedish of West African and Swedish background.
Koko: The issue of female circumcision or genital mutilation is a very sensitive one for Africans on the continent as we ll as the diaspora. This cultural practice is one that divides, as some view this practice as one of an issue of power and control while others view it as a system in which ideologies about cultures are propagated. It is a painful practice but one which introduces the girl child as a woman to her community.
When Makode decided to use engaging art to discuss this cultural phenomena - he didn't take into context, his background, the meaning, the explanation that many will put to his artwork. According to those who enjoy Art, Makode employs a form of artistry known as engaging art. Engaging art is often of a violent nature which throws violent images on the viewer with the aim of getting a conversation going and to get people to start talking about the issue presented.
But Makode might have lost the plot slightly because his presentation of the African woman seems almost bestial. This tribal woman is pitch black, with her eyes set in the way that African Americans were presented in the silent movies from the 1920's when they were made to dance for their supper. It is an insulting image and one that brings up feelings of pain and also powerlessness. Maybe, that 's the reason his message has been lost. This cake makes these women who go through this almost sub human.
Beyond all that, Sweden is an European country that is often cited as a country of ambivalence on racial issues. Basically, what we view as offensive as people of color in the United States, is often viewed as normative. It can be quite an uncomfortable country for people of color to live and work in. It raises the question - how do you get these racially insensitive cultural people to take a look at cultural painful practices towards women? Maybe by using a violent act. But, why put this violent act within a delicious cake? Could he have lost the plot?
Another food for thought can be found in understanding Makode race and where he fits in Swedish society. Many have said that Makode using this form of artwork shows his own ambivalence about his race and where he fits in the whole frame of things. As was mentioned earlier, Makode is biracial and maybe his understanding of what it means to be black in terms of history and the present might be slightly mixed. Almost like not really fitting in but trying to and getting lost on the way.
What are my thoughts : The artwork did what it was supposed to do. We are all talking about Makode. We are all doing a google search on him to find out what motivated him to create what he did. We are all reopening our minds to the issue of genital mutilation/female circumcision and asking ourselves where we stand on this issue. Was his presentation off? I will say so.
I, personally do not see any problems with the cake. But, I do have problems with the fact that the cake was not put in the right context with an explanation. The fact that many seem to enjoy actually cutting the cake. But, then others can read this enjoyment as showcasing - man's inhumanity towards another. This enjoyment is raising the question that if power was placed in your hands - will you wield it demonically and enjoy doing so?
I am going to end on facetious note - was the cake delicious? what flavour was it? Hit me back...what are your thoughts on this cake?
Written by Pamela Stitch
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 April 2012 09:19 )