The National Afro-Swedish Association is demanding that Sweden's minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth be fired for participating in an April 15th World Art Day celebration during which she ate a piece of cake. The problem is not that she ate cake; the problem is the kind of cake she ate. The video in this post that was filmed at the art installation is one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.
The pictures are equally disturbing, such as the one below showing the Swedish minister of culture smiling with a slice of the black woman body cake in one hand as she joyfully feeds cake to its own head with her other hand. The head is the actual head of the artist himself coming from under the table. Originally believed to be a white man in blackface, the artist is now identified as Makode Aj Lindes, an Afro-Swedish man (in blackface). As part of the performance, the head screams, pretending to be in pain.
Image Credit: Daily Mail UK
From the Huffington Post article about the incident:
As party-goers cut into the cake-woman's body, a human head screamed in pain.
The performance artist responsible for portraying the cake's head, a man (yes, a man) identified by The Local as Makode Aj Linde, posted a comment alongside a photo of the cake on his Facebook page.
"This is After getting my vagaga mutilated by the minister of culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth," Linde wrote. "Before cutting me up she whispered "Your life will be better after this" in my ear."
Many were quick to condemn the installation as racist.
I must agree that this art, no matter what the artist's intent, is horrific and racist, as well as sexist (Can you imagine this kind of cake carving of male genitalia?). Besides demands that Liljeroth step down from her position, The Guardian reports the museum was evacuated on Tuesday for a bomb threat.
What is in the water in Europe when it comes to race? Its artists and producers fail to see that these kinds of creative expressions are nearly as disrespectful and as much driven by racial arrogance as the atrocitites they claim to protest. Let's recall Slavery: The Game of last year here. One of the people behind that documentary was also of African descent.
The Canadian group Stolen From Africa compares the genital mutilation cake to Sarah Baartman, an African woman upon whom the "Hottentot Venus" was based. Baartman, a slave owned by Dutch farmers, was exhibited as freakish in Europe during the nineteenth century. I don't suppose the Swedish artist sees how he, in making this cake, is similar to those Europeans who exploited Baartman. Nor do I suppose that the Swedish minister of culture perceives that she is no better than the people who went to see Baartman's body. Baartman was told that she would become rich in Europe.
The producers behind Slavery the Game, by the way, were also Dutch, like Baartman's owners. Ah, here we are today, in the twenty-first century, two hundred years after Baartman, but one year the Dutch reveal their poor judgment and inability to teach about slavery and next the Swedish show the depth and breadth of their ignorance on race matters and their ineptness at teaching about genital mutilation.
So, to wrap up: A black Swedish male artist and a white Swedish female minister of culture walk into a party, the opening of a very sad joke at African women's expense, but both claim to be anti-racist, and this is what you get--white people standing around laughing, drinking, and symbolically mutilating the body of a black woman that they then consume while the male artist wears black face paint and screams in pain.
The Minister of Culture feeds the cake to the artist, perhaps even seeing that she is symbolically feeding the black woman to herself, forcing the black woman to participate in her own exploitation -- cannibalizing herself -- for the sake of white entertainment. The white woman then whispers in to the ear of the black male artist that his life will be better after this. Or does she mean to say that the black woman will be better for letting white people enjoy her pain and send money to the Congo?
Again, the hegemony earns money off making light of black suffering, and those who exploit that pain say they meant nothing by it. Nothing at all but to do a good deed. This, unfortunately for us all, is the world; this is all kind of wrong.
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