Why did the Swedish culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, a hardline anti-racist, cut this terrible caricature cake? Why would a black artist perform this purposely offensive piece, screaming comically as a room full of white art show-goers slice at the cake below his blackface painted head? If this “cake party” was staged to bring awareness to female genital circumcision, why are they all giggling?
Artist Makode Al Linde is basking in all the negative attention his piece of shock art at Moderna Museet is stirring. Is there anything redeeming about this piece? This cake cutting is a horrific spectacle — the red, the screams, the giggles — almost as if the Scandinavia’s apathy towards the issue of female circumcision is exaggerated through the aggressive trivialization and the cake-cutters are purposely made complicit in the violence. Also, it’s kitschy and absurd, but for obvious reasons, that’s not the first thing you think about either.
Female genital mutilation is the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia. In its most severe form, a woman or girl has all of her genitalia removed and then stitched together, leaving a small opening for intercourse and menstruation. It is practiced in 28 African countries on the pretext of cultural tradition or hygiene.
The degrading torture, extreme pain, lifelong consequences of this ordeal does not make it off-limits for artistic critique. Does “getting my vagaga mutilated” work? Had the response been different if Makode had a “vagaga” or if he was white? Is this the worst photo-op in the history of Swedish politics?