An exhibition of an art installation by a black artist Makode Linde which was opened as part of World Art Day has caused enormous controversy over its shock value. Shaped like a black woman’s torso Makode sits at the end of the cake, shouting out loud each time somebody cuts a piece, starting at the clitoris. Admittedly the installation caused controversy and gained world wide publicity as it was opened by the Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. The aim of the installation according to the artist was to highlight the issue of female circumcision.
The theme is not a common thread in the art world and does invite a strong reaction from those who deem it offensive. The photo above with a smiling Minister seems more in keeping with poking fun than what perhaps one would have expected. Had the seemingly parody like installation taken a more sombre and reflective tone perhaps the accusations of racism and calls for the Minister to resign would not have been as strong.
Provocative? Yes. Has this advanced the very important fight against female genital mutilation in an obscure village somewhere in the Congo? I doubt it.
Kitimbwa Sabuni, a spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association has similar reservations about the installation and direct his ire at the minister:
“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,”
…”To participate in a racist manifestation masquerading as art is totally over the line and can only be interpreted as the culture minister supporting the Moderna Museet’s racist prank.”
The artist herself and like many artists who court controversy by incorporating disturbing imagery into their art to draw attention to their work stated that:
“If one pulls things out of context, it is easy to feel offended or angry [...] I am using an old caricature of black – this “Blackface” that whites used once in order to mock blacks. Then, I worked on strengthening the cartoons to illustrate the prejudices that exist.”
In some ways this sort of revolutionary art should have the effect of shocking society and triggering questions about female genital mutilation. Instead of a shocked society this piece of art has had the effect of drowning out its central message and triggering a reaction that has brought back memories of “blackfaces” and accusations of racism.