Racism, Art or simply Racist Art?
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This week another tremor occurred. Another ripple of racism, just one of the many ripples that hide under the guise of humanitarianism or in this case Art. I will not host the photos or the video I describe below on my website. Instead I have included a photo of a Congolese woman, perhaps if you do watch the video keep her face in mind. Follow this link to view the video ‘Painful Cake’
Update from newspapers in Sweden the Artist says: “couldn’t dream about getting this much attention”. He has been interviewed by Al Jazeera, BBC and NYT and approached by galleries. Mission accomplished…The minister had not been informed about the performance but is defended both it and her participation. The cake was ordered by the Swedish Art Organisation. They defend the artist saying he works with topics like racism and freedom of speech. Here is his interview for AJstream: Makode Aj Linde when asked, “Why did you choose female circumcision as the subject?,” Linde responded,
There are many different entries into this piece and because of the medium, which was cake, the mutilation part of the piece was quite natural because you had to cut it up…Since I’m dealing with prejudice [and] ideas about black identity, the theme for the birthday celebration was censorship and freedom of speech, I think this piece was very appropriate. Because a lot of prejudice that concerns black identity, is that female circumcision is something that is because of oppression against women, and this oppression only takes place in black Africa and so on, but the oppression is one oppression. It’s like its one racism and one oppression against women and homophobia, and takes it different forms in Africa or in Europe or in Sweden or anywhere, so by them labeling oppression to be only female circumcision. I think that’s putting on blindfolds for seeing what oppression really is.
also please read this article by Afro Swede, Jallow Momodo:
Sweden: the country where racism is just a joke who has been hounded by some in Sweden for speaking up about racism, it is a haunting story.
This is an excerpt from a Swedish website. Full article here
STOCKHOLM (FRIA TIDER). A macabre scene took place this Saturday when the Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth attended a tax funded party for the most powerful cultural representatives in Stockholm. The self proclamed “anti-racist” Liljeroth, who is currently in the process of banning tax support for the only nationalist newspaper in Sweden, inaugurated the festival by cutting a cake that was supposed to depict a stereotyped African woman.
Photographs from the party at World Art Day has already been released on Facebook and is now spreading widely in social media. The shocking pictures shows how several established left-wing members of the Stockholm cultural elite celeberates together with the minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth by slicing and eating a cake depicting a stereotyped African woman.
According to sources the Minister of Culture was invited to initiate the party by doing a ”clitoridectomy” on the cake.’
The cake was part of a World Art Day celebration and meant to protest female circumcision, according to the Moderna Musset museum. The cake was created by artist Makode Aj Linde who also played the cake’s head. I have collated some of the reactions from both women & men of African descent and European women below. Not often enough do women of African descent get their voices heard, today won’t be one of those times.
People are getting over the aftershock of Invisible Children using Africans pain for their own purposes, pocket and self promotion. Now this. (Note one person was killed and many injured when there was a riot after a screening of Invisible Children’s #KONY2012 Part 2 film in Gulu, Northern Uganda last week) Please feel free to comment on this piece, any insightful comments will be moved in to the body of the piece and credited. Thanks
Sincerae Smith wrote:
OK, the rant is going to start briefly. I’m not putting it up on here but Google or Bing if you like “Swedish Culture Minister Accused Of Racist Cake-Cutting” and see the video. It’s very offensive and racist. Africans and others are shocked and one Tweeted that she’s just traumatized. You know I am tired of the peasant and degraded level of thinking of too many people now. I am tired of the so-called “activists” of every stripe who claim they are helping people, the world, etc. and nothing gets better. I am tired of people who might brush me off as she’s just another “angry black woman.” Ah, walk in my shoes for about 5 hundred years. I am tired of people who pretend and play with other’s lives. I am tired of those who say they stand for one thing when really what they stand for is appalling. I am tired of people trying to justify a wrong into a right. I am tired of people with their low class, lying, hypocritical, debased outlook, and no morality or decency. Plus they don’t want to change. It’s always in the end about looking out for number 1, being bigger than anyone else, using people, and pretending. The worse part is, “we’re only trying to help.” Well, I’m not tricked by your innocent looking eyes. There comes a point when Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s thinking needs to stop for all of the apologists out there too. I am sick and tired of if it all. If you are silent about wrong-doing, if you are friendly with the people who do things and will not repent of their wrong-doing you’re passively supporting it. The age of prophets is over, but we need some because I see zero chance for humanity if this continues. I going to say God doesn’t like ugly. Humans can’t see your heart, but He can. Also I am tired of the people who are trying to do good end up being the ones who get demonized.
Saria Khalifa wrote:
THIS IS EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE and seems quite pointless .. if it was meant to highlight female genital mutilation you would expect at least some facts, statistics, information or perhaps even a more truthful representation of the issue. instead it seems to be poking fun of an issue that is already so culturally charged that a lot pf professionals don’t want to broach the issue (even if that means they are failing on their child protection duties). Never mind the effect that this could have on women and girls who could already be traumatised by their past experiences of female genital mutilation… DISGUSTING!!! not only should the insensitive people cutting the cake be ashamed the artist should to. I am sure there are more sensitive and positive ways to put across a message.. surely artists can be more creative than to resort to shock tactics..
This is simply horrific. People are laughing at the dismembered body of a black woman, I can’t quite tell, ‘comically’ screaming in agony, taking pictures! And is it me or do they start with the genitals? WTF!! How is it that at 2012 we have to EXPLAIN why this makes us angry? How, How, How? How funny would it have been if it was the body of a white person they were carving up, I’m supposing it would be just as funny. I’ve looked at it again, and now I think it is a pregnant black woman?! Irrespective of race this is disgusting. The fact though that it is a black person is not accidental, this sort of thing never is. ‘Provocative art’ meant to make us think what? Complete racism pathetically trying to mask itself as something justifiable in the name of art. So so ANGRY!
Steph Phillips wrote:
This is awful. There are millions of far better ways to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation. I really don’t know where to start.
Internationally renowned Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina had this to say on the controversial devils pie: “That “art” like so many others, was not for “awareness” or “shock appeal” - it was for the entertainment and enjoyment of the bullet proof liberals who rule the planet, and who consume the pain of others as a product they like to call “charity” or “giving back”. The most important thing to know is that the makers, the buyers, the ministers are all utterly bullet proof. They believe that nothing you or I can do can move or hurt them. The only platform for communication, recognition or engagement is inside the world of pity, and leftovers. This is the true power of the world today, the thing to be feared, for when it decides to destroy you, with contracts and policies,and AID - it will make it seem as if it is doing you a favour - and if you are a fool, you will believe it. You are truly invisible, and if you have dreadlocks they will want to have sex with you, and turn you into a well paid trophy for dinner parties..
Interesting to note the double standards of belligerent liberals, who recently mauled Invisible children to pieces for the KONY 2012 faux pas, and what is popularly known as the “White Savior Industrial Complex”, then sanctimoniously sought to shut the debate down because of Jason Russells Public “melt down.”I have to ask in all seriousness, what about my mental health as a black woman having to be subjected to this public humiliation? I for one, am not amused by this latest installment of the white mans burden..
The cake’s depiction by Makode Linde is an intentionally provocative representation of the victims of female genital mutilation - Yes - it is a deadly-dark and vicious. It is satire. It is a dramatisation of the horror of FGM. And he hits bulls eye in one go.
Makode Linde plays everyone out against each other.. He has planned this reaction to happen. He wanted to the ‘africans’ to show their white hate aka the Swedish cultural elite, to show all of their own prejudices bluntly without filtering their reactions. As well as he also wanted the Swedish elite stand out (as one of the world’s forerunner for equality) as being racist, to make them make a public statement saying that they aren’t. He wanted to cause a stir, not sure he had foreseen this rage against the minister of culture (people shouting for her resignation) He masterminded it all and we all are his puppets, and doing exactly what he could hope for and more.
Newt guy wrote:
To me this boils down to a lack of respect for those affected by the issue the cake was representing by those who were in position to make the decision to let this happen. If it were a cake of a girl who gets trafficked from Eastern Europe into prostitution, someone would’ve asked themselves why would that be a cake that I or my guests are supposed to eat? The question then is why wasn’t that asked on this occasion? I think that is what is angering people is that this is another example of European/Western disrespect for things non-European or in this case African. It’s easy to look at it as just a clever prank that someone fell for. However, if you make a hypothetical comparison of other potential circumstances where a European feminine issue were to exposed or treated in such a manner, there would be outrage. For me, this isn’t about hate, but about understanding the underlying cause. The underlying cause is disrespect. I don’t see how anyone can try and dance around that.
M.K wrote on the artist’s Facebook fan page:
Well I thought I could find words to explain how dangerous this “so called” artist is to us africans. Just wondering if I could find a jew that would think this is “smart” idea to ridicule his kind the way this guy here did. Wondered also if in that case the minister would have laughed about it. Whites usually are unable to respect us or our sufferings, givent that they’re actually both causing and benefiting from such sufferings, but when it’s a “black” guy who acts this stupid and dares call it “provocation”, well I can’t find any word to express how utterly idiotic and lame this is.
I think you’re a coward. I wonder how you think your pitiful show helped any woman in this world. Also you should have wondered how they’d feel seing that idiocy of yours you call “art” (are you SERIOUS???).
Who should you be provoking? is it victims of the prejudice you feed on? Or is it the imperialists for whom you’re being a good house- nig**r? sorry, not a house nig**er, a restroom- nig**r because this is something even a house nig**er would feel ashamed of.
M.H.J wrote on the artist’s Facebook fan page:
Why do my comments keep disappearing? Cowardly I’d say. As spoken earlier … as a black artist, there are several people that believe your mannerisms and artistic ability does not speak for black people. The cake was disgusting and for a male black man to depict such ridiuclousness is beyond me! Please feel free to comment!
V.H wrote on the artist’s Facebook fan page
This is not art, this is the trivialization of an immense issue into a shock value performance piece. It’s downright trashy. I hope you’re proud. At the end of the day, all we are seeing is a black body being mutilated. You are making no further comment on the issue, thus you are perpetuating it.
Don’t you get it?
This is brilliant.
This reflects exactly what is happening in the wider world. The artist isn’t diminishing the pain of female mutilation at all. In fact He/she performs the pain rather well.
What it says is we have conversations about female mutilation, like here on Facebook, a if it was acceptable tea & cake conversation. Our conversation is drenched in stereotypes but we do nothing to stop it. We keep eating the cake, keep conversing, meanwhile the suffering continues unabated. That’s a really powerful piece of art and should be embraced in the message it’s getting across rather than being ridiculed.
Doctah X wrote:
Yep very Powerful piece of Art … I cant help noticing how the on lookers were moved to tears by the actors cries …. what a great way to bring Serious Attention to genital Mutilation By having Smiling and Laughing people cutting and eating pieces of cake from the Vaginal area of a Female Black Body Cake with a man pretending to feel pain when the cake was cut…… Surely that type of cannibalistic symbolism is nowhere near disgusting and debasing surely we should “embrace it” … So that next we can have a twisted individual evaluate the poignancy of great art such as….. having black children naked crying for hunger while the visitors had sumptuous amounts of food and the children crying woefully every time the visitors to the exhibition bit into some food …Surely that would be tasteful and make an impact on Starvation in Africa……Brilliant!…….. Desensitization is the new Rational Female circumcision is usually performed on girls of school age so that exhibit was visually inaccurate. and comical. I DONT GET IT!!
@Doctah, Surely the artist should have no concern how the audience interprets the piece. Of course it’s offensive. I think it’s meant to be offensive. It’s not racist but a comment on racism.
As I said in my critique, it highlights a stereotype.
But in the audience I saw a bunch of people unclear about how to behave and ended up uncomfortably laughing.
You saw it with the eyes of someone who saw ridicule and degradation from the audience the so called “pointing & laughing” brigade.
Neither view is wrong. Neither of us were there to discover the actual feelings and thoughts of the audience. But what is known is the artist’s style of work. Makode Linde is of course a Black Artist whose work is always devised around the ideas of Western romanticism & African fact of slavery & pain.
But we’re talking about the issue - which was the point of the work, so it achieved it’s aim.
The point gets lost when we worry about whether it’s offensive or not?
Everything is offensive to somebody.
Doctah X wrote:
To correct your interpretation of what I saw…I saw non empathy, indifference and insensitivity and I think your mistaken in the belief the artist should have no concern for the audience … art is meaningless without an audience…you did not critique the piece you wrote down your interpretation of the piece and your endorsement of it as a member of the audience(albeit via video)…I on the other hand also in audience didn’t see it your way … ART is supposed to evoke emotion…Pain is no laughing matter …. I do not need to be there to discover their thought and feelings human emotion is in west is fairly standardised …. but I dont know how you knew they were uncomfortable?? …. The racist stereotypical caricature of a Black woman being cut up and eaten (symbolically) from the waist down would never ever make me “laughingly uncomfortable” just DISGUSTED… so you can see i have no understanding of this work …I do not want or wish for a level of detachment that leaves me without the ability to employ my rationale. I cant wait for a brave white Artist to portray a white man being strung up and whipped by a black man and the blood from his/her back (symbolically) being drunk as wine by a black audience…. surely no one would be offended …..other wise the point would be lost …. but I guess … Everything is offensive to somebody ……. Cant Wait!
The following are tweets collated, some were directed to @MrBasabose who was great today in replying to and retweeting peoples reactions.
@AyjayH I don’t personally advocate this form of protest. Perhaps ppl have run out of ways to fight the practice?
@honestlyAbroad Fight the practice? In a gallery in Sweden? This is nothing but provocative pity porn. Promoting dehumanisation of women
@MrBasabose Then the NEW way to fight FGM is Swedish dehumanizing the “Black Woman” to HELP her?????? SMH
@AfricanViolet_2 I just saw the video. Disgusting & racist. These ppl have run out of ways to protest. Protests are now down to degradation.
@piwaa I am still traumatised by the Swedish Minister of culture’s exhibition!! How distasteful!! And in this day and age!! Siess!!
@lebomashile this ‘artwork’ is morbid & a gross expression of black woman’s worth in this world: we’re cake fit to be consumed. ☹
@Anto_Prophy MrBasabose Sjoe, I can’t. This is utterly disgusting!
@hoestlyabroad Should I be regretful that I made my points cos he’s (the artist) is black? He unveiled his artwork for an audience of Swedish people to laugh and point at. I have no wish to further debate it am afraid as I’m actually really very angry. Thanks
@AyjayH I found the artist: Makode aj linde. And most Swedes are upset by the art too.
@honestlyAbroad to @ahamrud he decided to unveil it @ an art gallery with a Swedish audience (who laughed & pointed)why not in Congo? or was that not the intended audience of this provocative pity porn? I know who he is, it does NOT excuse the dehumanisation of African women as art. (Re for a white audience) That really doesn’t make it right, let him, you and all defending this meet me in Congo on my next trip when we go let’s explain to the women we meet that the art is 4 their benefit. They should b happy
@honestlyAbroad to @ahamrud for the sake of his profile, his credentials as this will not stop one atrocity. You realise rather than help Invisible Children’s efforts has succeeded in killing more in riots. This in my eyes is no different. May cause the same effect and that would be a shame. The wounds of Invisible Kids have not healed
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