Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Say What? Wednesday: A "Nigger" Cake is Served in Sweden



Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Has anybody out there heard about this scandalous story regarding the minister of culture in Sweden eating a "nigger cake?" Say what? You heard me, dear readers. That's what the cake is called and it was in the shape of a naked African woman. The cake was frosted with dark chocolate icing and upon cutting into it, a red velvet cake was revealed. Here's a link for more about how the story was initially portrayed. Prepare to be outraged.

Now dear readers, I am not so ignorant as to think that the entire country of Sweden is run by a group of gleeful racists who like to eat offensive cakes. So, I tried to find the true story behind this cake. Apparently, the cake was a piece of performance art meant to bring attention to the practice of female genital mutilation. Here's a link to an opinion piece penned for Ebony.com that explains the artist's intentions as well as the success or lack thereof of his work. There's a video on that link to show the artist at work. And over at racialicious.com they've got a brief interview with the artist, Makode Aj Linde, who happens to be an Afro-Swede. In other words, he's Black. He stands by his work and said, "it's sad if people feel offended."



What do you think, dear readers? Are you offended?  Did Aj Linde succeed in his mission, or was this an epic fail?

I'm so listening.

Peace!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was it actually billed a "Nigger" cake or is that your word? If it wasn't then why would you refer to it as such?

Truly it is grotesque and repugnant given it is a caricature and an extreme one at that. Add to that that it is a man [the artist], who is also Afro-Swedish, who has created this and donned blackface for the 'occasion.'

The point of bringing awareness to female genital mutilation is missed due to the mocking and vile nature of the entire production. Those participating in the 'eating' of the 'proposed' African 'woman'figure seemed oblivious. That's nearly as disturbing as the bloated boot-black minstrel form touted as 'human.'

kate said...

You might find this blogger's take interesting (she too has written a book and is an expat in Europe.)
http://currentsbetweenshores.blogspot.com.es/2012/04/art-of-racism.html

Tere Kirkland said...

I think if you're an artist, you need to think long and hard about the balance you want to strike between message and spectacle. If the spectacle overpowers the message, no one is going to remember the message.

Like Lady Gaga's meat dress. Does anyone remember that she wore it to stand up for... actually, I think it might have been for gay/lesbian soldiers? That's the point.

As for people's reactions... I can't really blame anyone for not knowing how to react. Most laugh nervously out of shock (I hope), but it was the artist who decided to present the grave subject matter of FGM in such a cavalier manner. Although perhaps Linde felt the mood of an entire exhibit and collaborative event meant to inform people of a most disturbing custom needed to be lightened a bit. I can imagine so, but I think a more tactful installation or presentation at the event would have been more appropriate.

(On the side note of the black-face--and black fondant--this is one of the artist's hallmarks in his work. I do not imagine that he would deviate from that in this instance.)

Sorry for the dissertation, but it always feels good to be able to put my MA in Art History to some use. You may now pay me $106,000. ;)

Itsbugart said...

The "artist" claims to be examining issues of racism and colonialism in much the same manner as Yinka Shonibare. If that is really what he is trying to do, then EPIC FAIL. (as opposed to Shonibare who is EPIC WIN in my book!!!)

I wrote (and cross-posted to Facebook) the following on msnbc.com: I am a white woman (from South Carolina, USA) who lives in Sweden. I FOUND IT OFFENSIVE AS HELL for both the racism and the misogyny. I have already emailed the museum and the Cultural Affairs minister and have encouraged all my friends to do the same. Btw, a Swedish blogger called this very well when she or he posted a photo montage of this cake alongside some images of lynchings. The resemblance is remarkable. As for the so-called artist, he is just a con artist; he's not good enough as an artist to get attention unless he does something offensive. THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY IN HUMAN SUFFERING!

An long-time friend added to the comment on Facebook: As another white woman from SC, what I am seeing here is yet another example of a group of people who don't have the balls to just straight up say the emperor is naked because they afraid to be thought of as unsophisticated. And yet another example of a so called artist realizing this and figuring out how to cash in on it. Frankly, I don't get how these people were able to control their gorge long enough to avoid puking right then and there. I couldn't even watch the vid, it was so offensive.

Itsbugart said...

I have lived in Sweden since 1994 but as I tell people "I ain't from these here parts!"

http://seriedagboken.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/lena-adelsohn-liljeroth-kontexten-for-helvete/ is a blog written by a Swedish blogger. This entry is entitled "Context!" and the blogger has posted a photomontage of the cake alongside pictures of lynchings (where the White audience is also standing about laughing at a POC's suffering). THIS BLOGGER HIT THE NAIL ON THE RACIST HEAD if you ask me!!!

Itsbugart said...

Yep, here I am again but I thought I should break-up my commentaries into several shorter parts so no one's eyes cross over.

I am a member of Vänsterparti, the Left Socialist Party, and had emailed the members of my local party and asked them to put the cake issue on the agenda for last night's meeting. I am currently working on a statement that our group will publish in the local newspaper, online etc. explaining just HOW and WHY this so-called artwork is offensive as hell. 2 older party members pointed out that Sweden has historically played both ends again the middle. For example during the 1980s leading politicians denounced racism while simultaneously selling weapons to the former-Apartheid regime in South Africa.

NOTE! I am NOT saying that ALL Swedes are racists, but rather than there is a great deal of hypocracy about the fact that many of them are. This country gets its progressive image from the actions of grassroots anti-racist activists and then the political leaders take all the credit.

LT said...

Anon,
Sadly, that is what it's called. Apparently all over Western Europe such names exist for all types of chocolate cakes and candies. (sigh)

Kate,
Thanks. That blogger, Rose-Anne is actually a friend of mine from way back. She does have a great discussion going on her blog.

Tere,
Such a good point. "the balance between message and spectacle." I believe this is definitely a case where the spectacle won.

Lts,
Thank you for sharing your opinion. I feel much the same way, but I think you said it better. And I so appreciate that you're doing something about your outrage. Preach on!

Tea said...

I can't believe it. I'm more than mad!

Verbose said...

Since the artist commonly uses blackface in his art, I don't see how people familiar with his work would've been altogether surprised.

Having said that, he did push boundaries by painting himself up, cutting a hole in the table and screaming whenever someone cut a piece. Not to mention the fact that the co-ordinator of the event should have thought twice given the general nature of his work, that media coverage of the event would focus on him -for better or for worse.

All the same, Linde should've known that a stunt like that would overshadow his intent on raising awareness about clitorectomies.

Itsbugart said...

If you want to contact the Swedish Cultural Affairs Minister, here's English verson of government's website:

http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/7877

Once upon a time said...

I can see the artist's message loud and clear.. African/black bodies have been used as 'lab rats', women who are subjected to the pain of FGM, the literal bodies and pre-colonial nations of Africa being torn to pieces, even to this very day... this cake is all of those things and more.

I truly do not believe the artist (who is Afro-Swedish himself) intended to make light of these things, but rather to show how flippantly these things are done *TO* black bodies, as if our bodies were no more sentient than a piece of cake. Except this cake, it screams when you cut it. Those screams are the screams of our ancestors coming through.. loud and clear.

Once upon a time said...

"UPDATE: It occurred to me that it’s possible that the artist intended to trap a mostly white audience into participating in this obviously racist game, all with the intention of revealing that they would. Sort of like Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, where the fictional African American tv writer, asked by his White boss to write something “Black,” wrote the most racist thing he could think of… only to discover that audiences loved it."

Not my words, but that is a point that I wanted to also mention.

From: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/04/18/black-face-racial-caricature-and-cake-raising-awareness-about-female-genital-mutilation/

Anonymous said...

I think its great.