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The Venus Hottentot Cake

3
Posted April 24, 2012 by felicialavette in Featured

An Open Letter from African women to the Minister of Culture: The Venus Hottentot Cake
April 20, 2012 by blackfeminists

On Sunday, April 15th, at the Moderna Museet the Swedish Artists Organization celebrated World Art Day, as well as celebrating its own 75th birthday. Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth, the culture Minister, was Invited to speak and a number of artists were invited to create birthday cakes for the celebration. The Minister was informed that the cake would be about the limits of provocative art, and about female genital mutilation. The event was launched with Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth cutting the first piece of cake from a dark, ruby red velvet filling with black icing, which we understand was created by the Afro-Swedish artist Makode Aj Linde, whose head forms that of the black woman, and is seen with a blackened face screaming with pain each time a guest cuts a slice from the cake. Rather disturbingly for many African women, the minister is pictured laughing as she cuts off the genital area (clitoris)from the metaphorical cake, as the artist Makode screams distastefully. The gaze of the predominantly white Swedish crowd is on Lijeroth who is positioned at the crotch end, as they look on at their visibly ebullient culture minister with seemingly nervous laughter as she becomes a part of the performance – a re-enactment of FGM on a cake made in the image of a disembodied African woman.

The pictures of the event that followed in the media and video footage can only be described in the mildest of terms, as a very negative racialised spectacle, that has infuriated many people. As representatives of African women on the ground, we have the experiential privilege to convey to the Swedish Embassy’s Ministry of Culture the fury that we have seen, particularly from African women who are dismayed at the fact that this project which was supposed to bring awareness of the very painful and complex issue of genital cutting has ironically, had the complete opposite effect. The fact that the artist is black does not in any way diminish the gravity of this racially demeaning project. The black artist who created this may be accused of being a dim witted misogynist on the one hand or on the other, some sort of gnostic proponent of postmodern praxis, in relation to black identity and difference – that we just don’t get – but we do not believe, based on what we have seen and heard from the artists own explanations, that this so-called ‘provocative performance art’ stands up to the intellectual rigor required of literary and cultural critique. The work is definitely not empowering or transformative for women who are victims of FGM in any shape or form, and the racial overtones of this project re-inscribe the exploitation and dehumanisation of black African women, which clearly cannot be denied. The fact of Makode Linde’s blackness does not legitimize anything done here, and the message about the seriousness of FGM is completely subsumed by the hideous medium through which it has been conveyed. One does not need to be subjected to the epistemic violence underpinning the grotesque reconstruction of FGM, in the form of a black woman having her clitoris cut off to the sound of a laughing crowd with a fixed gaze, drinks in hand, to raise awareness of this very serious issue. Perhaps some reflection is required on what this might be saying about the people who were participating, and who saw nothing wrong in what will surely go down as a deeply disturbing episode and blight in Sweden’s history.

SIGNED

Dr Claudette Carr Director, Jethro Institute for Good Governance, BlackWomens Blueprint Barbara Mhangami, Samantha Asumadu

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http://blackfeminists.org/2012/04/20/an-open-letter-from-african-women-to-the-minister-of-culture-the-venus-hottentot-cak/


About the Author

felicialavette

I cringe at the thought of writing my bio, because how can I truly explain how multidimensional I am in just a few short sentences. First, I am a child of God. Next, I am a wife and a mother. My passion is Sister Girl News and educating others. The way to my heart is chocolate, barbeque chicken, and Dr. Pepper soda. My daily goal is to ensure that everyone who meets me always walks away laughing.

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