Last week, a cake cutting in Sweden caused a firestorm of controversy. It’s difficult to explain why a room full of white people and the Minister of Culture cutting a “bloody” slice of a female-shaped cake’s “vagina” as an artist’s adjacent head violently screamed in blackface isn’t immediately racist. Speaking with Hyperallergic, Afro-Swedish artist Makode Linde reacts to the overreaction to his piece, and concludes that the performance “went off the exact way I wanted it.” So, to follow up, what it is that he wanted?
In the above video response to Al Jezeera, explains his theme of Afromantics employing the “image of blackface” and “criticising the images of black identity in my art.”
The Afromatics series of 700 sculptures takes Western cultural objects and paints them in blackface as a commentary on the lack of diversity in this image, the blanketing of identity inherit to the action — the most damaging of stylizations. He chose to continue the series with the cake, and is surprised that most of the “shallow” “out of context” reaction centers around whether the Minister of Culture is herself a racist. As if it was the Minister and not Linde himself who orchestrated the happening.
Linde did create an provocative piece, full knowing that it would implicate every person in this room and project shock and awe, and perhaps, awareness of the female genital mutilation crisis in Africa. Maybe if his cries weren’t quite so comical and theatrical, there wouldn’t also be allegations of sexism to deal with and the giggling in the room would be even more terrifying. This press photograph and the reactions it spawned is as much part of performance as any of its other parts.