Art, Culture
Africa Gets Sweded

Africa Gets Sweded – Redux

by Mahala High 5 Brigade / 18.04.2012

It’s a disturbing image. The Swedish Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, feeding a symbolic piece of mutilated vagina to performance artist Makode Aj Linde, and whispering: “Your life will be better after this,” in between wine and giggles. This is not so much about raising awareness about genital mutilation in Africa, as it is about questioning the way Europe patronisingly exoticises African problems. It’s a story that has the whole world scrambling for an appropriate reading, or reaction – ourselves included – as evidenced by our own poorly researched knee-jerk reaction published earlier today. To review our initial sentiments, which accused the Swedes and the artist himself of “flagrant, racist shit!”, we now reckon that this could actually be one of the finest “artistic” statements on the west’s approach to Africa. Mea culpa Mahala. If this was a print magazine we’d be in a lot more kak.

One of the earliest readings, and possibly the source of much confusion around the piece is the idea that Makode Aj Linde’s artwork is about “raising awareness of genital mutilation in Africa”. Because really, that’s the red herring. The little easy-to-soundbite distraction that allows the artist space to perform his jiu-jitsu. That of a black artist, dressed in blackface, getting the Swedish Minister of Culture to perform a mock genital mutilation, in front of a gallery crowd of nervously laughing, wine drinking art patrons. It all makes for a rather sublime artistic statement on how the west views Africa – exploding as a viral on the internet. Job done. The controversy that has erupted around the performance, and our own misreading of it, only goes to show how fraught and complex the race debate is… and most importantly, how shoddy research and a misreading of the finer details can lead to some rather large misunderstandings compounding an already murky and volatile issue.

As Nathalie Rothschild said in a Vice piece entitled Holy Shit that Cake is Racist:
“Lost in the outrage was the fact that the artist, Makode Aj Linde, makes work that explores stereotyping, attitudes towards black people, and post-colonialism. Getting a bunch of white people to cheer and laugh as a symbolic African gets mutilated probably made his point.”

The real question is, was the Swedish Minister of Culture “duped” by the artist, into playing this role and in so doing producing a potentially career ending gaffe. Or was she knowingly part of the artist’s interrogation. The answer may well lie in the statement: “your life will get better after this.”

Alas, unlike art, which thrives on the ambiguity of meaning, political careers don’t.

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RESPONSES (30)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Ok. The performance artist WAS African. His name is Makode Aj Linde. me thinks that makes things a bit more interesting.

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  2. dudie says:

    this is deconstructive, not racist. i’m not going to explain why, but the only thing i can say is that Africa is not ready for such imagery. africa is not even ready for DA posters depicting interracial love.

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  3. Roger Young says:

    Google before you knee-jerk, FFS.

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  4. Andy says:

    Yoh… a little information is a dangerous thing. Please see the redux and apologies for our slacktivist approach to research.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    The minister has said that she was asked by the organizers to whisper “your life will get better after this.” before feeding the cake to the artist.

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  6. Andy says:

    If she owned that shit, she could save her job. But then she also went on and said this:
    “it’s up to the artist to explain what he meant with his work.” D’oh!

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  7. karien says:

    the only thing that makes me uncomfortable about it is that the artist is a man

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  8. Kyla says:

    Jeez. Even after all this explaining, I still don’t get it. What was the point then? To show up Europeans’ casual attitude to ‘African’ problems or just to cause a stir with no real pint being made at all. Either way, that image is too horrific for words.

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  9. Golliwog says:

    let them eat cake-right then at least swedish arts funding is getting a PC boost

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  10. Reinhold#3 says:

    kindly link the original article as well.

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  11. Carlos says:

    Ag, this is just a stupid, cheap, fame-whoring artwork. As stupid as the minister’s participation in it.

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  12. Name (optional) says:

    @karien
    exactly! throughout history men have potrayed women on the stage. enough! forget blackface, femface must come to an end.

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  13. Andy says:

    @Reinhold#3 – we reworked this from the original… our first attempt was premised on the assumption that the artist was white. Much trouble ensued. Not Mahala’s finest hour.

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  14. Polony says:

    Please link the original article

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  15. Frida says:

    Would be great to see the original version of this story, please…

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  16. Andy says:

    As much as it pains us to reproduce this. You have the right to see our totally misguided and poorly researched first attempt.

    Apologies.

    —————————————————————-

    And in other news, more proof that many Europeans (and the West in general) don’t seem to understand just how racist they are, as evidenced in this photograph of the Swedish Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, enjoying some cake, wine and a giggle to raise awareness about genital mutilation in Africa. Seriously. It all took place at an event at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, at what has been described as a “tax funded party for the cultural elite”. Nice. The same article goes on to describe it as a “macabre scene with racist undertones”. And therein lies the rub, my Swedish friends. Those are not undertones. That is some pretty flagrant, racist shit! Described most succinctly by the African-Swedish Association as “a racist spectacle”.

    And it just gets worse and more bizarre: “Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was invited to open the festivities by performing a clitoridectomy on the cake, which she did by slicing off the part of the cake depicting female genitalia. She then proceeded to feed that part of the cake to a performance artist, done up in blackface, his head protruding through the table.”

    “Her participation, as she laughs, drinks and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision.” Said Kitimbwa Sabuni, spokesman for the African-Swedish Association.

    Take heart in the fact that no black people were hurt in this unique piece of Swedish “performance art”. We’re pretty certain that no black people were even involved. That’s the whole point, and the ultimate insult of blackface. Black people can’t even play themselves in these grizzly pantomimes.

    Who knows what they were thinking. Were they thinking at all? Invariably, cake metaphors abound. So here’s ours. Let them eat cake. Nah fuck it, let’s make a cake out of them and eat that ourselves!

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  17. Frida says:

    Thanks for posting, Andy.

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  18. Tumi Molekane says:

    This is genius to me. Pure genius.

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  19. cnut says:

    Mahala-high-5-brigade lead by Douche-bag Davis shown up big time!

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  20. mud-debunker says:

    Bravely done for the correction; certainly makes this more interesting and deconstructs this one step further.

    One small correction the Vice article was by Nathalie not Nathan Rothschild. He is someone else.

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  21. Andy says:

    Thanks Mud, fixing it now. We try live by our mistakes and their learnings.

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  22. Andy says:

    this piece gives great insight…

    http://africasacountry.com/2012/04/18/swedish-cake/

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  23. Cocoman says:

    Sweet fucken jesus! When some crusty Swedish backpacker chick has a few brandy and cokes and a couple of spliffs on Long Street and then gets fed a black dick we all clap hands and say “Welcome to the Rainbow Nation!”. You naiers jumping on the racism bandwagon need to chill the fuck out!

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  24. spoken tunarist says:

    Here’s the most intelligent response of all: http://www.hayibo.com/africans-shocked-by-uncivilized-antics-of-european-savages/

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  25. Urk says:

    HAYIBO!

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  26. Dennis says:

    Wonder how the cake tasted…

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  27. anonymous says:

    you bitches need to read some SPIVAK

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