Disgusting. Racist. Insensitive. Those are the words being used to describe a performance art piece which was created by Afro-Swedish artist Makode Linde and put on display for World Art Day in Sweden. Linde’s piece is a cake created to purportedly resemble an African woman soon to undergo female genital mutilation; however, the cake has deformed breasts and a distended belly–a possible reference to the stereotypical distended belly of sick African children that the media will display when trying to drum up interest in the latest famine on the Dark Continent. While the torso of the African woman is actually cake, the head and face of the figure belongs to Linde and sticks through a hole in the table, decorated to resemble Sambo.
At the event, Sweden’s Minister of Culture and self-proclaimed “anti-racist”, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth makes the initial slice into the cake, all the while Makode Linde pretends to cry out in pain as the cake is being cut. In an interview with Al Jazeera after a video of the cake cutting went viral, Linde admits that the Minister of Culture had not seen his cake before learning that she would be the one asked to cut the first piece. For her part, the Minister of Culture was reportedly surprised upon seeing the cake, but has since said that she “understand quite well that this is provocative and that it was a rather bizarre situation”
Although Linde claimed he created the performance art to bring attention to female genital mutilation of African woman, it brings up deeper issues as well. Personally, I think that what he created was brilliant.
Look at the video. Look closely and think deeply. What do you see? You see a “cultured” white person from one of the most developed nations in the world, a self-proclaimed anti-racist woman, cutting into the screaming genital region of a black female body. Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth even feeds a piece of the cake to Linde, perhaps for good theatrical measure. The image reminds you of mutilated black bodies hanging from trees after a lynching while “cultured” white people sit on the grass nearby having a picnic with children as if nothing is amiss. The images remind you of the way that Africa was partitioned by European nations at the Berlin Conference with no regard for how the Africans themselves may have felt. And now, here we are in beautiful, cultured Sweden, and white people still see nothing wrong with slicing up an African body for entertainment, pleasure, and, for the most gruesome reason of all, consumption.
Is Linde mocking the Swedish people and making their willingness to consume the cake a part of his performance? Are the Swedes really as anti-racist as they say? Or, do you think Linde really meant the cake as a commentary on female genital mutilation and nothing more?
This was performance art at its finest.