Bodies Have Histories: Musing on Makode Linde and ‘that’ Cake

19 Apr

Image via The Graph.com

Bodies have histories.

When I first saw the images of the now infamous “Painful Cake” I had questions. Who created this? What went through their mind? Why is a Black female body being consumed both literally and symbolically by White women? What did the people in the room think? What was the climate in which this cake was created?

Apparently Makode Linde, an Afro Swedish artist created this cake in order to bring attention to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and apparently, to critique Western ideas around Blackness and the ways in which Blackness is read as deviant, and to critique the ways in which it is othered.

In many ways this is a state sanction piece of art in that it was created as a part of Sweden’s World Art Day at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Sweden’s Minster of Culture Adelsohn Liljeroth  has both defended Makode’s “right to artistic expression”and stated the she wasn’t aware of the form of the cake prior to it’s display. Talk about the politics of social location.

Initially I did not know who created this work, I had just seen snippets of conversations on the internet. And then when I learned that the creator was an Afro Swedish man, I immediately thought about the intersection of race and gender. The question then became how do we talk about the intersection of racism, and sexism when the creator of a problematic and offensive piece of art is a Black man? Why is this “okay” for Makoda to create this but not a White woman artist? Lastly, where are the women who are apparently the “subjects” of this work?

Kelly Virella at the blog, Old Dominion of New York writes,

Linde told Al Jazeeera those who are angry and at him and the minister took the work out of its context and misunderstood his agenda as an artist. “I think a lot of people saw some images taken during the performance, saw the pictures online and took the images out of its context. And they accused me and the cultural minister to be racists,” he said. “So I think the people who have been upset about the art piece, about the images, have seen have misunderstood the intention or the agenda of me as an artist.”

So. Here are my observations and my questions.

Bodies have histories and artists make real deliberate choices. According to Virella’s post Makode claims that he has done work historically that addresses race, Blackness and and Zenophobia. Does this mean that he will not be held accountable for not only intention but impact, because that is what we are talking about here.

The people in the room are mainly White and appear to be experiencing pleasure while observing and participating in Makode’s performance. Someone who I respect greatly recently taught me that we have to be mindful of the moments when we experience pleasure because those are moments where we are learning. In other words, those moments are not neutral.

Now I have questions. Where were the women who have experiences with FGM? Were they in the room? Why or why not? If they were not in the room, is this another example of the White Savior Industrial Complex? (shout out to Teju Cole).

Quite simply, did he talk to any women who had experienced FGM, both those who see it as a cultural tradition and those who deplore it? If yes, what did they say? If no, why is he speaking for these women?

What would have been the response of a woman who has dealt with FGM to Makode’s work? I don’t know, it isn’t my place to say.  But as a Black feminist, it is certainly my place to ask.

And. If bodies have histories, how does he account for the histories of both the symbolic and in this instant, literal consumption of Black women’s bodies? These same Black bodies which have a peculiar and insidious history of being commodified and sold, globally.

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58 Responses to “Bodies Have Histories: Musing on Makode Linde and ‘that’ Cake”

  1. ivyleaves April 19, 2012 at 10:05 AM #

    I’d say that discussion highlighting the race of the “artist” is disappearing the misogyny that is the basis of FGM. It was very problematic to even dream of choosing a male artist for this project. I put scare quotes around artist because this is a work of pure stereotype, both visually and interactively, that doesn’t rise above hackneyed craftsmanship, in my opinion. I went to the facebook page of the artist, and saw his photo of the cake after it had been served. the inside was red cake. The face has a type of minstrel-show blackface paint on it, with a real human mouth inside of the grotesque clown paint mouth. The artist comments as if he is a woman being cut, and the Swedish minister is the one cutting him. The purpose of this work seems to be publicity for the artist, period.

    • Lily May 27, 2012 at 5:09 AM #

      Even though i know now that this cake, come from black artist’s mind, I still find it shocking. I mean art doesn’t have to be indulgent. But I wonder to myself the same question where are black women ? This not because someone is black, that he can talk about every “black topic” without any conscience. What really still piss me of in the video, is seeing lot of white women, laughing while the really stereotyping cake is crying. I mean the scene is to confused, I ‘m not the only who didn’t understand the main idea.
      Subjects like “FGM” deserve to be treated less confusedly.
      (Sorry for bad english I’m French)

  2. Jondrea Smith April 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM #

    Part of me thinks what Makode did was absolute genius. The image is not the cake, but that of the mistresses of decadence ignoring the screams for the object. The true art, in my opinion are the thousands of images circulation the media of the ‘mistresses of wealth,’ gleefully gorging themselves on the consummate sweetness of Africa, ignoring the screams of their victim. It, in my opinion, is symbolic of the entire relationship between ‘the West’ and Africa. It’s visceral, shocking, and satirical all at once.

    • Natalie D. A. Bennett April 19, 2012 at 11:08 AM #

      Jondrea – I don’t think what he did was genius, because I really don’t get the sense that he even “gets” the layers of the performance that you’re pointing to. If what you are describing is what he intended or imagined could emerge, then yes. In fact, that’s the same interpretation that I brought to the performance, and wondered if the audience’s laughter was part of the discomfort around the role they were being forced to play in a centuries’ old melodrama of violence. He’s claiming that the work is being read “out of context” when really, it’s not Sweden that’s the sole context for the work, but the world as black people have come to know and experience it since at least the 15th century. Again, I don’t get that the artist’s sense of history is so wide in scope.

      • Jondrea Smith April 19, 2012 at 11:55 AM #

        Not all genius is intentional :-D He may have just been trying to haphazardly juxtapose blackface and cake, and this was the result. He might have had a brainfart and threw something together, but for me, especially since the first images I saw of the piece were the internet photos at its unveiling, the symbolism was shocking. Especially when you consider the ‘let them eat cake’ connotations, combined with the fact they they commissioned the piece that is now causing such a stir. It’s almost like the Emperor’s New Clothes all over again to me. It also sticks out to me that the people kept eating the cake. They were either devoid of or oblivious to the connotations of their act, and continued to carry on like the insular gentry class they represent.

      • da May 19, 2012 at 5:59 PM #

        I agree!

    • enlightin won April 20, 2012 at 7:52 AM #

      I agree Jondrea, well done. They re fully exposed, and look foolish. How do you get white prime minister to eat genitalia while smiling on the news.

    • Marisa McFarlane April 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM #

      Too true, My question is: who comissioned this cake to be made and why was this idea of female genital mutilation something to celebrate? – They are physically cutting this idea and laughing as they eat the steotypical black body. This too is another way to gaze at the black female body while having your cake and eating it too! Funny thing is, I’m not as shocked by this as simply TIRED of the ways that people find new ways to rehash old imagery and old racism like we’re going to forget.

    • Hello April 21, 2012 at 4:56 AM #

      I agree Jondrea Smith. I too saw Linde’s cake as intentional satire. The goal wasn’t to bring awareness to the horrors of female circumcision in Africa. The goal was to poke fun at White Westerners’ sensationalized perceptions of Africa as this dark continent of disease, poverty and violence. It was commentary on the “Let’s save Africa and adopt all the poor little children in Sudan” media sensationalism has been going on for years. I think the artist chose to fashion the cake into the image of this black nude fertility goddess to shed light on how African women are stereotyped by western culture as these nude, impoverished, helpless creatures, primal creatures. The subject matter of female mutilation was chosen because, If you look at documentaries or Magazine articles about Africa all you see is poverty stricken African being rapped, abused, killed or violated in some kind of way. It’s like to westerners all African women are helpless rape victims. You never see a representation of African women as house wives, college graduates, career women. All you see are negative images. It is as if, in an effort to “save” Africa Westerners have developed sorta of reverse form of racism against African. That was the point of Linde’s piece. As for the laughing white people, maybe they were laughing because they knew they were in on an joke. Or, perhaps it was Linde’s intentions to make them the joke.

      • Hello April 21, 2012 at 5:36 AM #

        I agree Jondrea Smith. I too saw Linde’s cake as intentional satire. The goal wasn’t to bring awareness to the horrors of female circumcision in Africa. The goal was to poke fun at White Westerners’ sensationalized perceptions of Africa as this dark continent of disease, poverty and violence. It was a critique of the “lets save Africa and adopt a poor black child from Sudan”, mindset that western blacks and whites have adopted over the years. The artist chose female genital mutilation as a vehicle for such commentary, because in our culture it is the most sensationalized and publicized imagery we have of African women. Be honest. When one thinks of African women, the first things that comes to mind is starvation, rape, disease or dark nude earth mother. No one ever envision a College educated career woman, math wiz, party girl, or excellent house wife and mother because that is not interesting or exotic. Those are not the types of things we see on television because it is boring. As for the white people laughing and cutting the cake. They were either laughing because they were uncomfortable because they were the joke, understood the joke or were oblivious to the joke. Either way, Linde’s cake was brilliant and more thought out than one thinks.

      • da May 19, 2012 at 6:05 PM #

        Linde didn’t show “any African women as house wives, college graduates, career women” eighter. Just more negative images and more negative associations and stereotypes. When an artist or designer just continue to create this types of caricatures them they really will stay in peoples mind.

    • Malin April 21, 2012 at 7:39 PM #

      Since “Cakegate”, the black-face-cake-female-genital-mutilation-performance by artist Makode Linde, erupted in Sweden at the beginning of this week, I’ve spent some time following it in media and in various discussions both on- and offline: there are offended Swedes who are demanding that Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, the minister of culture who so skillfully administered the cake-clitoris-cutting, resign. Others, such as one of the organizers, KRO (the veneered national organization for Swedish artists), says in a statement that in a free society “we have to be able to handle art that is critical”. People already familiar with Linde’s art, including the artist himself, claim that the performance is taken out of context and misunderstood.
      So far though, I had yet to read a thorough analysis of the actual performance that took place at this event – that is, until I found this blog. I too, feel that the artist is out on thin ice, because there’s a lot more going on than the cutting and gorging of a racist cake. It may not ever be possible to entirely grasp the complex web of history, culture, art, several kinds of social stereotypes, and local as well as international politics, that informs Cakegate, but it wouldn’t be right not to try. I’m taking a stab at it.

      In a brief interview with Linde on Hyperallergic.com, the artist is quoted as saying: “If it is something that Americans take serious [it] is postcolonialism and slavery and ‘not going there’ and making a bad joke about it. In Sweden, we don’t have the same slave trade history.” … ” but [for] Afro-Swedes [we] look at it as one more degree removed.” It’s a reasonable claim: Sweden, like every country, has its own specific history and culture, and learned history is very different from lived history. So it’s now clear that the artist is using a borrowed visual language; the black-face is virtually without any specific national past in Sweden, a country with no history of African slaves. One can only assume that this is a conscious choice by the artist.

      In the same interview, however, it becomes rather clear that Linde doesn’t understand how highly charged the black-face stereotype is, as we go on to learn that he “…doesn’t understand the fixation that commenters have on the white figures all around and he seems legitimately surprised by the aggressiveness of commenters towards the audience. I think it is wrong to call it racist because they are white women and I’m the only black person there, he says.”
      Reading this, I can’t help but wonder: if your art is about race, how can you possibly use the iconic black-face and at the same time completely overlook the ethnicity of your audience? To me, this is just as nuanced as making a performance about guns at the NRA Headquarters without acknowledging the surroundings.

      To complicate matters further, the artist claims that this piece is really about bringing attention to female genital mutilation. OK, fine, but why the black-face then? Is FGM really an issue of race? No. As the term itself implies, it is a strict gender issue: female genital mutilation, peoples. To continue with the analogies, I find this approximately as thought-through as making a performance about Chinese foot binding with figures wearing yarmulkes.

      This is just skimming the surface of the issues with this performance, of course. Plenty can be said of the Minister of Culture who initially claimed “being tricked”, and who thereby represents herself as a government lackey without any individual responsibility. Is it really too much to ask that she stop, look, and ask a few counter-provocative questions, before cutting the clitoris off the screaming cake? Apparently so.

      Making controversial art that provokes is absolutely fine by me and I think it’s fantastic when art actually reaches beyond its own little insular world and serves a greater purpose. But controversy by itself doesn’t guarantee any kind of thinking. Making art that is more than a one-liner and that succeeds in raising difficult and/or political questions is very difficult, and demands strong analytical and critical faculties. It seems that both the artist and the audience at this event failed to do much critical thinking at all.

      It is this naïveté that I find so unnerving – particularly when given the protective explanation that it is “a strain of Swedish humor that is very dark and cynical”.
      The only part about this performance that is dark and cynical is the utter ignorance of its participants and their collective self-congratulatory satisfaction with themselves as champions of freedom of expression: while being heroes in their own eyes, they miss a golden opportunity to let a piece of performance art ignite an important debate about race, identity, and representation. The disappointing outcome of the debacle is of course that the debate never gets to where it supposedly was intended to go: to bring attention to the girls who have their genitals mutilated and their lives ruined as a result of it.

      • omegasoul498 April 23, 2012 at 7:50 AM #

        Thank you for this, and you are right. Mine is but one interpretation, contextualized by my own historical and ancestral connections. Mine is a line of exploited and exterminated peoples–Irish, Haitian, Mississippian Slave, and Indigenous American–so when I see people laughing while the source of their goodies screams in horror and agony, I see it through that lens. I don’t think that I am necessarily ‘right’ in my interpretation, but I am glad that we are having the conversation. I think for so long there has been an attempt to distance ‘civilized’ society from the real horrors of the African Holocaust and Diaspora, but conversations like this one put it right in our faces; exactly where it belongs in my humble opinion. I hope we keep it going, and I thank you for your feedback.

      • The One April 28, 2012 at 12:54 PM #

        I agree wwith most of what you say except for the part about FGM not being about race. Yes, it is a female issue that can be done to any woman or girl, HOWEVER the reality of the situation is that it is a problem that MAINLY/OVERWHELMINGLY affect BLACK women & girls. I also find it intersting to say the least how this supposed “artist” has time to defend White women (big surprise right? That’s sarcasm by the way) yet wants to play all “innocent” about why this female Blackkface caricature image is offensive to Black women and girls. I I bet you if this had been a cake of a Black ma being lynched being eaten by and in a room full of White MEN nobody would “understand” the artisst’s work, nobody would be attempting to explain away the laughter as something harmless and done out of being uncomfortable” and nobody would be calling it “brilliant/genius”, and especially NOBODY would begrudge Black men feeling angry about it. i am really sick and tired of the double-talk, phony bullshit from this anti-Black female society. Truly sick and damn tired of it.

      • da May 20, 2012 at 4:18 PM #

        Thanks Malin!
        You see right trough it.

  3. steven April 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM #

    @natalie, I had the same questions after listening to his interview with Al Jazeera. It just seemed to me to be a tragedy of ironies, especially when this was explicitly described as a critique of FGM. I think that Jondrea’s repositioning of the art and the viewer to describe the historical narrative being depicted in the art is more genius than what I heard the artist describe. However, I do take into account that English is not his first language and his first language is not mine.

    • Hello April 21, 2012 at 5:13 AM #

      Well I have not heard the artist’s interview. But that is the way all artist are. They never fully tell you what the piece is about. They are cryptic by nature because if you knew what the piece was about, then it would not be provocative. And if it is not provocative then it does not make you think. It it doesn’t make you think than it is not worth looking at.

    • Hello April 21, 2012 at 5:15 AM #

      @steven probably is a critique of FGM……………………..just not in the way you think it is.

      • steven April 23, 2012 at 9:55 AM #

        haha ok. unfortunately you nor or anyone else can provide that description other than the artist. who left much of the interpretation of this very provocative piece up to the viewers instead of clearly explaining how this relates to FGM. If he’s critiquing the way swedes are getting their “white savior complex” fulfilled, he should say that explicitly.

    • da May 19, 2012 at 6:21 PM #

      steven, in the Al Jazeera interview makode actually said that he didn’t want to put focus on FGM. He said that FGM usually are being seen as female opression. His point was, he said, to say that female opression is NOT just in Africa but everywhere.

      It’s for sure a very strange way to say that??? Totally unclear and confused.

  4. Susan L Daniels April 19, 2012 at 2:45 PM #

    The photograph above is entirely shocking, and the image of the laughing European elite consuming the African woman, who is a consumable resource for their pleasure, completely illustrates the artist’s point, whether he meant to make it or not. I would argue that the photograph of the cake being eaten is, in and of itself, more genuine “art” than the actual cake was.

  5. moyazb April 19, 2012 at 3:43 PM #

    ‎”I would only add that people of color, particularly of African descent, have always been aware that the prospect of publicly butchering and consuming a Black woman’s body excites more fascination, even delight, than outrage; the only people who might conceivably ‘need’ the information as ‘proof’ of ongoing prejudice and institutionalized racism are anti-Black white, and white-identified POC lacking this embodied cultural memory and ongoing experience. Even if it exposes the fact that most criticism of “female genital mutilation” (FGM) in Europe and the United States serves mainly to reinforce the characterization of Africans (particularly Muslims) as barbaric and offer an excuse to pontificate while dwelling lubriciously over the penetration and dissection of Black women’s bodies, it has simply uncovered this cynicism. It has done absolutely nothing to assist African-descended women and men best equipped to diminish the frequency and ameliorate the severity of FGM as a practice. Any knowledge of “perfect, poignant, inarguable display of the danger of internalized and ‘but I’m not a racist’ racism” can indeed always be argued away in bad faith with the claim that what Linde made was ‘only’ a cake, he was not a ‘real’ woman, and that this was ‘art’ and not life. Again, we have art made primarily for a European audience, at the expense of Black bodies vicariously destroyed for it. Wake me when it’s over.” – source: liquornspice

  6. Katarina April 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM #

    As a Swede of Ethiopian origin who lives in South Africa , I’m very intrigued by the performance piece and the ongoing aftermath.

    While I agree with Nathalie above that it is possible that Makode Line don’t fully comprehend his own work (or the extent of it), I also agree with Jondrea that the work was absolutely genious, and see no contradiction in this. Art works on so many levels within both artist and audience – consciously and subconsciously. Makode has since spoken eloquently about his intention and the execution, but in a written piece today I feel that he’s suddenly spending too much time comforting the Minister and the attending audience. I don’t expect him to judge (that wouldn’t be very interesting), but would rather he didn’t spend so much time on put them (and the rest of Sweden) at ease again, thus helping them to leave the story behind without reflecting on their (our) own racism.

    Makode is one brave artist, whose work is considerably bigger than he is. He does not control the outcome of his own project, but rather he is discovering and further exploring it together with us, in the same way that he has done during seven years of working on the Afromantics theme. For this reason I would have loved for a few more days of anxiety and confusion to pass before hearing Linde clarify and explain the obscure and therefore frightening aspects of his art, thus delivering us from uncomfortable discoveries about ourselves. On the other hand, his “interference” at this point could also be regarded as just another element of the piece.

    (last paragraph is an extract from piece Let them eat cake: http://wordsofkatarina.blogspot.com/2012/04/let-them-eat-cake-on-makode-lindes.html)

    • da May 19, 2012 at 7:12 PM #

      Katarina I assume you are adopted, and grew up in a Swedish family.
      I think one have a different view than you, a different identy and a different experience if one is born with black parents, has close relation to them and their relatives. It gives another identity. More awareness in a certain way, and a more realistic relation to the history of blackness, racism and stereoptypes. I think it has a lot to do with how the parents relate to racism and how to react to a stereotyping in the surroundings. Emotionally also, it will always be a very different relationship to once heritage.

      I don’t mean to valuate, I just want to point out the difference.

      I see the Afromantics as an outcome of anger and frustration. It’s like the artist is trying to be on the top as oppose to under. Instead of just feeling stereotyped he creates his own caricatures and stereotyped characters. But he can’t flee that way. I think he delude himself.
      Because even if he feels he has the power, he’s not the victim, because he’s the creator – the truth is that the only thing he actually does is to create more and more stereotyoes in peoples minds.

      Afromatics just pass on the same caricatures but worse. As long as one detain stereotypes the will stay in peoples mind.

  7. bionicdiscovery April 19, 2012 at 5:40 PM #

    “Quite simply, did he talk to any women who had experienced FGM, both those who see it as a cultural tradition and those who deplore it? If yes, what did they say? If no, why is he speaking for these women”

    I think that these are questions that should be asked, but not to the point that they override what Makode’s work *has* done. I don’t know that Makode is trying to speak *for* women who’ve suffered from or dealt with FGM, but his work has created a moment in which they can step forward and speak for themselves. Regardless of whether or not he’s met these women and asked them these questions, regardless of whether or not they were even in the room – they can use the opportunity that this firestorm has created to make sure that their voices are heard. Speaking up about something doesn’t necessarily equate to an attempt to speak *for* a victim.

    I don’t know that it’s necessarily more okay for Makode to have created this piece than it would’ve been for a white woman, or a white man for that matter. Perhaps accusations of racism directed at the artists would have been more prevalent, and perhaps the message would’ve been clouded by that. But the fact remains that people are still calling Makode a racist and questioning his intent – even though he’s come forward and said what he meant for the piece to represent. If this was a painting, would people question it the way they’ve been? People sometimes have a narrow minded view of what is or can be art – and perhaps the performance factor of this particular scenario trivializes the matter, but my personal feeling is that it makes it that much more visceral and tangible. The screaming as someone cuts into the (cake) body is not something could have been captured with a paintbrush.

    In any case, I think we need to focus more on creating an environment where Makode’s work can be used to generate the discussion it was supposed to generate and less on questioning if he met with the right people, asked them the right questions and received permission to speak on their behalf.

    http://gstff.blogspot.com/2012/04/conversation-that-never-was.html

  8. Reninaj April 20, 2012 at 11:56 AM #

    When I read this post I had the opening of Wendy Harcourt’s book in the back of my head. In this book she discusses being a young White woman, and scholar who speaks at a conference against FGM. She cites this as an example of the politics of “speaking for someone else” as opposed to letting a group of people (with all of their manifest differences) speak for themselves.

    @Jondrea
    Your comment is interesting in that you remind me of the fact that as an artist, you do not control the outcomes, in terms of how your work is read. That art is discursive and we have NO IDEA what knowledge base, assumptions the audience brings to the the reading of a work.
    There is also something to be said, for your statement that perhaps the work is operating on levels and in ways that Linde had not intended.
    I know, as a person who has written things on the internet that my work can take on a life of it’s own and often times I am not their with the audience to defend it or restate my own intentions.

    @Moya
    Your citation of liquorandSpice touches on a subtext that I didn’t have the clarity to analyze which that conversations about FGM are typically used to discuss how many African folks, many of whom are Muslim are savages and, what impact does this have on the day to day lives of the folks who can addres FGM.
    The quote that I am referring to is this:
    Even if it exposes the fact that most criticism of “female genital mutilation” (FGM) in Europe and the United States serves mainly to reinforce the characterization of Africans (particularly Muslims) as barbaric and offer an excuse to pontificate while dwelling lubriciously over the penetration and dissection of Black women’s bodies, it has simply uncovered this cynicism. It has done absolutely nothing to assist African-descended women and men best equipped to diminish the frequency and ameliorate the severity of FGM as a practice.

  9. jjoneluc April 20, 2012 at 1:31 PM #

    I’m wondering how female victims of FGM would feel about this piece of art. I understand that the artist has encountered racism as a black man, but he’s never suffered from this act. To me, it goes back to the criticisms of Kony 2012; when does representing another’s story cross the boundaries of being downright disrespectful? Plus, why were many in the background just talking loudly or laughing? Perhaps it’s the fact that their Swedish; maybe if many Blacks were in the room, the reaction would have been different because the blackface imagery has been used to dehumanize us. I was horrified by this video and the pictures.

    But I have another concern: What if this was a cake of a Holocaust survivor who was being cut? Would people be outraged then?

    • Hello April 21, 2012 at 5:49 AM #

      Yeah, it may have been in poor taste to satirize mutilation. But sometimes the things that harm people the most are things you cannot see.

    • Hello April 21, 2012 at 5:52 AM #

      @jjonelue, people probably would have been outrage if it were a holocaust victim………….just like they were outraged that is a black woman. Now would the people in attendance have eaten the cake so carefree, I don’t think so. But that was what made the piece great………….those white folks just kept on eating.

      • The One April 28, 2012 at 1:04 PM #

        Almost NOBODY is outraged that this cake is a Black woman. YES they would have been outraged if it was a holocaust survivor, which is NOT the case now that it’s only a Black woman. You know the group that deserves NO respect, sympathy, consideration, compassion, etc. Can we please stop the crap? For you to even insinuiate that people are “outraged” over anti-Black female disrespect/mockery in this case is very offensive.

    • wonder May 3, 2012 at 8:26 AM #

      It wouldn’t have been done.

  10. Hello April 21, 2012 at 5:46 AM #

    I don’t think the artist is critiquing the consumption of the black woman’s body. LOL, I think he is critiquing the idea of the consumption of the black woman’s body……….which has become so common place in our minds that it has become satirical hence is over dramatic screams, while popping his head out of cake. Popping ones head out of cake while yelling and screaming should tell you right there they not being serious.

    • The One April 28, 2012 at 1:07 PM #

      “LOL”? Really? REALLY? Abuse of the Black female body is something to “LOL” over to you? There you go people. There is the “outrage” over this……..SMDH.

      • Hello April 28, 2012 at 3:37 PM #

        No abuse over the black woman’s body is not something to LOL over. Yet, the people’s stereotypes of black people and foreigners are. Why? because it shines a light on how stupid the people who came up with those stereotypes are. I think the piece makes western, middle to upper class whites and uninformed blacks look stupid. That is where the LOL comes from.

      • Hello April 28, 2012 at 3:46 PM #

        “For you to even insinuiate that people are “outraged” over anti-Black female disrespect/mockery in this case is very offensive.

        @Theone how is that offensive? Elaborate. I was not insinuated………I thought I was being blunt. People are angry because the majority of African Americans that had seen this clip are outraged because it was taken as a disrespectful/mockery of the black female or African female. Maybe I just read your comment wrong. But I don’t understand your point.

    • da May 19, 2012 at 8:24 PM #

      LOL
      I don’t think he thought that deep about it. He took a little of this and a little of that, some blackface from the US here and some other symbols from the African continent here. The world racism is hot, and people in Sweden are not that aware about blackness, they just know that it’s good to be anti racism. And if the artist talks about FGM and oppression here and there, gender, stereotypes then everybody would think it’s deep and serious, and that the artist probaly is some African expert in everything concerning blackness. It’s like they don’t understand that he’s just like them, he’s a middleclass Swedish guy that have no relationship what so ever to Africa or all that:

      • Malin May 19, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

        Da – that pretty much nails it.

  11. Hello April 21, 2012 at 5:55 AM #

    Sorry for stalking this page. I have thumbed through this website and it is the most fucking excellent website I’ve thumbed through in a long time. It makes me want to get up blog.

  12. Zora April 22, 2012 at 2:01 AM #

    Very insightful take on this incident. Like others, I’m not sure the creator was fully aware of how his work would be perceived after it was circulated in the media, but it did serve to put a spotlight on the multiple ways the black female body continues to be consumed, “dissected”, and objectified.

    But regardless of the positive or negative outcome of the performance piece, I am tired of things like female genital mutilation being fodder for the western world to show how African women need to be saved from the practices of their culture largely born out of patriarchal ideology. It reminds me of the effort to “save Afghani women from their men” or as Gayatri Spivak puts it “white men are saving brown women from brown men.” There are other forms of brutality committed against black women (e.g. in the Congo and other war-torn areas) where rape is used as a weapon of war.

    It seems this artist took the easy way out and allowed a white audience to participate in a discussion about black women that makes them comfortable. And to me that is cowardice disguised as art.

    • Jondrea Smith April 22, 2012 at 12:41 PM #

      What do you suggest as a solution-oriented approach that aligns us as complementary partners-at-arms rather than uneasy and skeptical allies? I ask because I know that there are many things that I can empathize with but because of societal constructs will never know for myself, but at the same time, I’m firm in the belief that something has to be done. I’m open to suggestions.

      • Zora April 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM #

        Well, many people have brought awareness to issues about people who have a ethnic/gender/class/ etc. background different than them. To me it is about recognizing one’s position as a person outside of this group. It requires a sense of humility that says “I will never know what it’s like to be this person, but I don’t want to remain silent when there is a small part I can do.”

        In the case of the artist here, his participation in the spectacle and the crude display juxtaposed with the setting and viewers, was just in poor taste. As much as he might have been well intentioned, he placed himself at the focus of something he had no real knowledge of. For him to be screaming in pain as if to mimic the African women who endure this practice was an ultimate form of self-aggrandizement and theatrics that was totally inappropriate in my opinion. Until he has had his genitals mutilated, he cannot verbally articulate anything about the pain those women experience. That the audience was able to laugh and smile is indicative of how meaningless his attempt to bring “awareness” was.

      • Jondrea Smith April 23, 2012 at 10:19 AM #

        @Zora, I’m not talking about raising awareness. I’m talking about working together for solutions. The gender split–especially in the Black community–is festering, and it’s not going to get any better, in my opinion, as long as we’re sitting on our respective ‘sides’ lobbing volleys at each other. I just want to know in your opinion, how we get from fighting to fixing.

      • Zora April 23, 2012 at 4:29 PM #

        @Jondrea. I don’t necessarily think that black women are fighting with black men or even other people who sympathize with the various plights that black women (like any other group of women experience) in the same way that I don’t think that’s the case for black men who utilize partnerships with black women and other groups to confront issues that face them specifically.

        What my point is – is that the FGM cake cutting is case in point in what not to do.

        What we have to do is trust whatever group we are trying to support in their ability to articulate their concerns and needs. And we need to work together to see how we can address those concerns and needs in a supportive manner. For example, when Lynn Nottage who is African American wrote her play Ruined about women in the Democractic Republic of Congo, she began by interviewing those women, spending extended amounts of time with them and trying to find a place to tap into a form of expression that wouldn’t objectify their pain but would bring multinational attention to it. Those kinds of efforts are places to start. Sometimes, if we sat for a moment and listened instead of talking, the answers would reveal themselves.

        But I do appreciate where you’re coming from. I think too often we spend time pontificating rather than figuring out how to turn our thoughts into positive action. Both have equal importance.

    • The One April 28, 2012 at 1:09 PM #

      In other words. abuse of Black women & girls by Black or Brown men is not to be acknowledged, let alone condemned or critisized. Same you-know-what, different day. Once again, SMDH.

  13. Reninaj April 22, 2012 at 9:25 AM #

    @Zora
    “It seems this artist took the easy way out and allowed a white audience to participate in a discussion about black women that makes them comfortable. And to me that is cowardice disguised as art.”
    It is so interesting when you say this because it reminds me of how Tyler Perry’s empire is built on “controlling” images of Black women. I am always suspect when stereotypical images of Black women are the subjects of a persons art when that artist is not a Black woman.

    Don’t use Black women’s tropes to advance your quotes. #boom.

    • Zora April 23, 2012 at 9:26 AM #

      I totally share your skepticism about people who try to portray black women when they are not themselves black women. Perhaps it’s because black women have been reduced to so many enduring stereotypes, it’s hard for people to get out of those things.

      As for Tyler Perry, I feel like he is well-intentioned, but the stories he tells about black women’s experiences are often cliche and old. To me, he participates in this subversive campaign on the part of the media and other entities to “fix” black women or to make us better. So, his films go right along with the ritual articles we see in the news about why black women can’t find or keep a man, or the self-help marketers who want to tell us how to “act like a lady and think like a man”, etc. It’s this continual production of media, literature, etc. that tells black women they are not worthy of love and cannot articulate their own desires. I definitely think Tyler Perry participates in that.

      • The One April 28, 2012 at 12:37 PM #

        Look can we just for once and for all STOP the pussyfooting around? This disgusting cake is YET ANOTHER clear, explicit, and unmistakable example of how much Black men HATE WITH EVERY FIBER OF THEIR BEING Black women’s guts., It’s so damn obvious to me. Enough witht exuses, enough with the “explanations”, it is just plain ol, ordinary ANTI-BLACK FEMALE HATE!

    • The One April 28, 2012 at 1:11 PM #

      THANK YOU Reninaj. FINALLY someone who GETS IT.

      • Malin April 28, 2012 at 3:07 PM #

        @The One: I completely get your point about “the reality of the situation is that it is a problem that MAINLY/OVERWHELMINGLY affect BLACK women & girls”: that is 100% true and I’m not disagreeing with that statement at all.

        But, what I meant to point out by saying my piece above, is that FMG victims aren’t victims primarily because they’re black – but because they are female. I think that my argument matters in this situation only because the artist clearly is giving himself the right to represent anyone who is black simply because HE is black.
        In other words: he’s essentially appropriating art by artists like Adrian Piper but without understanding the nuances of her work – and this is what I call naïve (and also understand as the “innocence” you’re addressing in your response): the inability of the artist, OR the audience, OR Swedish media in general, to grasp this big problem of representation.
        This, unfortunately, is how race is addressed in Sweden, where people like to say they live in “the most equal country in the world”. I grew up there and have many times been accused of having become “Americanized” when I have wanted to have a nuanced conversation about race and representation. My only conclusion is that if you’re so on top of the world, you simply don’t have to question your own actions – even the the whole world reacts with shock to it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  9. Your Childhood Memories Don’t Trump Mine. « stop! talking. - June 14, 2012

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