Art is a peculiar thing. It is nearly always is created to portray a message, a message that is most times suspended in a fog of interpretation. And most people just don’t get it.
Enter Jezebel. The popular, pop-centric feminist blog released an article today criticizing a Swedish Official, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, who participated in a performance to raise awareness about female genital mutilation in Africa. At the event, a moving piece of performance art by Makode Aj Linde featured a Venus of Willendorf shaped cake, dressed in black icing and African jewelry, headed by the artist in blackface screaming in agony with every slice of Venus’ nethers – in relevant fashion, the cutting starts at her most intimate parts.
Jezebel (following suit with several media outlets), rather than attempting to explain or understand the history and issues being brought to light by the artist, chose to jump on the “OH EM GEE THAT SWEDISH OFFICIAL SHOULD APOLOGIZE” racism shout out bandwagon – complete with baseless reproach.
“Many Swedes are incredibly uncomfortable with photos from the event, where it appears that Liljeroth is not troubled at all by her role in the performance art, smiling, laughing, and drinking. And the crowd pictured laughing all around her sure looks like it’s full of assholes, too.”
Of course Swedes are uncomfortable with the photos – they are meant to be! Linde is throwing their racism right in their faces, after all. Oh, and way to go with the respect for others, ladies (not).
Makode Linde is know for his provocative artwork meant to bring attention to Swedish attitudes toward Black people. His art brims with symbolism. This installation was no exception. Makode Linde’s stated purpose for this work was to bring attention to the torture of female genital mutilation. In my opinion, he accomplished that quite well. I personally found the performance very disturbing; and probably would have had considerable trouble cutting into that cake.
Blackface has historically been used to dehumanize Black people. Linde’s purposeful use of blackface in his “Painful Cake” is meant to call out society for this dehumanization and show that Black women are real human beings. Blackface represents Swedish society’s view of Black women as simplistic caricatures of Black humanity rather than the real pillars of the family that they are. His performance proves his point with exemplary efficiency – no one seemed horrified by what they were seeing, at least not during the portion of the performance released on tape.
Black women suffer life-long pain from female genital mutilation. African baby-goddesses are being held down by their own mothers while their genitals are ceremoniously sliced off and sewn back up and they are then tied up for weeks to ‘heal’ badly while society is busy having cake.
Maybe if we scream loud enough, people will realize these girls are real.