Genital Mutilation and Shock Art

There was some amount of outrage last week when Sweden's Minister of Culture was seen presiding over a cake made to mirror blackface. The cake was actually made by a black artist in Sweden, Makode Linde. Like photoshopping Venus and the Old Masters, the piece is too didactic and spectacular for my taste. I tend to find "shock art" ultimately numbing and rather boring. 


But however you feel, it's worth understanding how it came about and what the guy was trying to accomplish:

"I've been working since 2004 with the image of blackness and criticizing different ideas of black identity within my art," Linde told Al Jazeera. I've been doing this by revamping the blackface into different forms and thereby critiquing it." The cake represents a woman receiving female circumcision. 

Linde says he created it to critique the Western tendency to point fingers at oppression in Africa, without examining its own racism, sexism and homophobia. "Racism, oppression against woman, or homophobia can take place in Africa, in Europe, in Sweden, in anywhere," Linde says. "By then labeling oppression to only be female circumcision or taking a certain form, I think that's putting on blindfolds for seeing what oppression really is."

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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