Makode Linde’s Racist Cake The Underlying Ethics

This is a subject well worth debating! An Afro-Swedish,male, artist creates a cake in the form of a grossly exaggerated  caricature of a tribal woman, in order to highlight female circumcision. A tasteless exercise at the best of times and a difficult task to carry out without offending someone. In this case it has offended everyone and has included a call for  the Swedish Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth who cut the first slice to resign. The minister was asked to cut a section of the female genitalia as part of the performance. Mr. Linde, who was part of the installation, knelt screaming and moaning. He then ate the cake. The audience reaction was of shock with many uncomfortable giggles. Photos of the Minister laughing, and feeding a bite of the cake to the open mouth of the artwork have shot around the world, like a viral space shuttle.

The Culture Minister has denied any wrong, doing but admits that Mr. Linde’s artistic statement about female genital mutilation in Africa may have been confusing. “He claims that it challenges a romanticised and exoticised view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism,” she said. “Art needs to be provocative.” This installation for Sweden’s “Art Week” certainly has provoked.

NY’s art blogger Marina Galperina took a step back and tried to find some artistic merit in it: “Is there anything redeeming about this piece? This cake cutting is a horrific spectacle — the red, the screams, the giggles — almost as if the Scandinavia’s apathy towards the issue of female circumcision is exaggerated through the aggressive trivialization and the cake-cutters are purposely made complicit in the violence. Also, it’s kitschy and absurd, but for obvious reasons, that’s not the first thing you think about either.

When Marina Abramović dismembered an oozing cake version of herself and Deborah Harry at the MoCA, some of the swanky gala guests chanted “Violence against women!” This is violence against women: Female genital mutilation is the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia. In its most severe form, a woman or girl has all of her genitalia removed and then stitched together, leaving a small opening for intercourse and menstruation. It is practiced in 28 African countries on the pretext of cultural tradition or hygiene. The degrading torture, extreme pain, lifelong consequences of this ordeal does not make it off-limits for artistic critique. Does “getting my vagaga mutilated” work? Had the response been different if Makode had a “vagaga” or if he was white? Is this the worst photo-op in the history of Swedish politics?”

Once you get past the shock value, there are some interesting points to consider. First of all Makode Linde is himself an “Afro-Swede”. He is somewhat of an anomaly in arts in that he uses stereotypical caricatures of African people in his work, in order to confront and highlight racism. “Makode Linde is known for in his art, which is based on racism, xenophobia and slavery. The cake, which was part of his work, was to create a Westerners perception of Africa in contrast to the real picture of slavery and oppression. He also stresses that the main purpose of the cake was not to depict mutilation;” says the Afro-Europe blog. It is difficult understanding the last part of this statement, one could say there is a certain artistic licence granted to a person making a statement about how others view part of their own cultural heritage.  Stockholm’s Moderna Musee was evacuated yesterday due to a bomb threat. It was still unknown today, if the scare was related to the art scandal.

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