Makode is a confused Mulatto
The concept of Afromantics by Afro-Swedish artist Makode Linde, has got nothing to do with Africans as portrayed in the cake cutting theme of female genital mutilation (FGM). He has been criticized for being insensitive to African women and that he understands nothing about the pain of FGM. I can even bet my last dime that he has never visited his African ancestral roots. In fact he is a typical example of many other confused Swedish “Mulattoes” who have no particular description or identity of their African background, because they disregard that parentage. Makode says and writes online that his father came from “West Africa” and his mother is Swedish. Where in West Africa? From this, I believe he has no emotional attachment with his father. How then, could he make a cake representing the pain of an African woman undergoing FGM?
Online information about Afromantics at urbanlife.com
“To those familiar with the Minstrel shows (white actors painted black performed caricatures of African-Americans in degrading stereotypes where blacks were seen as less knowledgeable, lazy, and second-class human beings) from the early 1800 up to the late 1900’s, or Gollywog dolls, these images below may seem offensive – but that isn’t the sole objective of Afro-Swedish artist Makode Linde. However, the Afromantics exhibition is clearly designed to make you think.
Visitors to Afromantics will see everything from Beethoven and the Statue of Liberty to Robocop – each figure painted black and adorned with a couple of big white eyes and a pair of thick red lips in an obscure grin. Yes, the old Western caricatures of a black man’s appearance however, this is with clever intent.
With deceptive ease and humour, Makode Linde’s work shows western conceptions of the good man and the good life in junction with the perception of the Other. A whole army of small mutations are formed that demonstrates a totally romanticized vision of the part of western history that is characterized by violence, slavery and racism.”
Afromantics has borrowed heavily from the concept of ‘Blackface’ that Makode also talked about in his Swedish TV4 and SVT defenses about his art cake.
Here’s Wikipedia’s description of Blackface
“Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the “happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation” or the “dandified coon”. In 1848, blackface minstrel shows were the national art of the time, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.”
The above two descriptions have got nothing to do with Africans in Africa and are purely concerned with the history of African-Americans in USA. His controversial cake therefore depicts a misogynistic character in him; he understands nothing about African women, let alone FGM. Moreover, African-Americans have no history of practicing FGM. It is instead a complete misrepresentation. Makode made the Culture Minister Liljeroth and her spectators laugh while cutting the cake, instead of showing empathy to the theme of FGM. According to Makode, he succeeded in his exhibition of the ‘African woman cake’ because he provoked a debate. What debate? So far, the strong reactions have featured racism more than discussing FGM. His is nothing but a hypocritical and selfish opportunist. It was about him gaining fame with his crude, racist portrayal of the black race that he also genetically belongs to. Any smart thinking person would question whether his ‘cries’ while the Minister and other whites sliced through the cake’s lower torso exposing the ‘bloody ghastly innards’, were commensurate with their joys and laughter?
Some reactions in the social media:
“According to the Moderna Museet, the ‘cake party’ was meant to problematize female circumcision but how that is accomplished through a cake representing a racist caricature of a black woman complete with ‘black face’ is unclear,” Kitimbwa Sabuni, the spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association told the The Local. “One cannot see how it benefits those people to degrade them in this way with racist caricatures in this kind of mocking spectacle.”
Sabuni argues that the Minister’s act of cutting the cake had “cannibalistic overtones”:
“Her participation, as she laughs, drinks, and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision.” He said. “We have no confidence in her any longer.”
Minister Liljeroth’s response:
“I was invited to speak at World Art Day about art’s freedom and the right to provoke. And then they wanted me to cut the cake. [He] claims that it challenges a romanticized and exoticized view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism. Art needs to be provocative.”
Here’s Makode’s reaction on Facebook about his exhibition, which clearly explains that he was after attention and not necessarily concerned about FGM:
“This is after getting my vagaga mutilated by the minister of culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. Before cutting me up she whispered ‘Your life will be better after this’ in my ear.”
Freelance writer Tiff “Coffey” J wrote this:
“While art is indeed supposed to encourage discourse, I’m not exactly sure what to make of Makode Linde’s art installation, as I’m not familiar with his body of work or any recurring themes any of it is supposed to invoke. I will say that the image of a man, in Minstrel makeup, portraying an African woman and victim of FGM as a caricature for a predominantly White audience, is unsettling. Particularly since his message of awareness seemed to be lost in translation amongst the sea of laughing and smiling European faces; none of which showed any semblance of concern about the intended message of Female Genital Mutilation or its effect on African women. Perhaps the artist set out to intentionally evoke the laissez-faire reaction from event goers, to prove a point.”
Nerdy Feminist’s reaction:
“Even if you could strip away racist and sexist imagery, who the hell wants to eat what looks like a bloodied body?! But truth is, you can’t strip away levels of shit going on here. Amongst the critics are the Afro Swedes’ Association saying that the “art” relies on a racist caricature. Here, here. Other critics took to Twitter. As Professor Blair LM Kelley said, “Blackface, check. Red distorted lips, check. Man portraying a misshapen black woman, check. Laughter, check. That’s minstrelsy.”
It’s clearly very hard to deny the racism here. I mean, we have someone in black face and a bunch of white people are digging into the body, literally devouring her. It’s sick. And just as old as minstrelsy, we have the sexist element of the disembodiment of women, whose parts are isolated and emphasized in an effort to deny their humanity.
But beyond all that fucked-up-ery, I simply fail to see how this possibly conveys that FGM is a problem. It seems to mock it instead, from the fact that Liljeroth had to say that disturbing line to the imagery of them all yucking it up as they eat the woman’s labia and body–I mean, what the actual fuck? How is this remotely conveying an anti-FGM message?”
According to Cade DeBois at feministe.us:
“I honestly just don’t know how to respond to this. There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin.
1. The degrading racial caricature of an African woman
2. The disembodiment, objectification and disfigurement in jest of something depicting an African woman’s body
3. The utter cultural insensitivity and arch-colonial patronizing toward women who actually have had FGM
4. That this is a male artist who joked about getting his “vagaga” mutilated. Wonder if he would think this was as funny if it was something humorous depicting his own genitalia being mutilated.
5. That the freaking minister of culture went along with this.
6. Oh and in case you missed it (and I don’t recommend seeing this is you are sensitive) the interior of the cake was dyed blood red. There are pics of it on the artist’s FB page. It looks like they were trying to depict a woman being sawed in half, like something out of the imagination of a violently rabid misogynist. It made me queasy.
7. None of this seems to suggest anyone involved understands how genuinely painful, scarring and traumatic FGM can be for many women or how in some regions, women are forced to undergo FGM against their will and even violently, and too often without proper medical care afterwards, leading to infection, further pain and even death. Why would you think this is an appropriate way to address such an issue? What next? A rape victim cake?
I’m just horrified.”
I feel that although racism might be a strong word to describe the unfortunate act of performing ‘clitoridectomy’ on the ‘African woman cake’ by Minister Liljeroth, I am bound to accept it because the caricature-look Makode used in the theme was racist in the eyes of many African-Americans, from online reactions. It is not related to Africans either and shows that Makode’s art is for personal fame and benefit, more than exposing FGM, which he is clueless about. Makode and his ilk suffer from ‘inbuilt/subconscious’ racism. As for the Culture Minister being an anti-racist feminist, she can tell that to her dogs. Covert racism is always spiced by public appearances/acts showing that one sympathizes with a certain cause/race, while mentally they have no relation with it. Liljeroth is described as an upper class Swede who obviously saw her mutilation of the cake as humorous. Her words whispered in Linde’s ear during the ‘cut’ left a lot to be desired: “Your life will be better after this.” It was well-planned to promote the confused, twisted and racist Mulatto’s ‘gory artwork’.
This was a reminder of ‘primitive sexuality’ used on Saarjite Baartman (the Hottentot Venus), a young Khosian woman who came from South Africa to England in 1810, and was publicly displayed in England and France for five years, to show her enlarged buttocks. She became a spectacle of dark humor and debate about the African woman’s sexuality from a European’s perspective. After her death at age 26, her genitalia was removed, covered in wax and publicly displayed in a French museum, to exhibit the African woman’s ‘primitive sexual appetite’. Her body was later claimed by the South African government for a decent burial in the early 2000s. Many years later, the Swedish Culture Minister has dug a knife into the genitalia of a cake figure exaggerated to look like the Hottentot Venus and it is called art. Meanwhile, real-life girls and women continue suffering from the physical and mental scars of FGM in Africa and the Arab world.
Disgusted African woman in Sweden