Internalized racism has been one of the primary means by which we are constantly forced to perpetuate and collude in our own oppression and the oppression of others of our race. In the case of the “Venus Hottentot Cake”, equally devastating is that the artist Makode Aj Linde is Afro-Swedish. His own head adorned with long locks forms that of the naked Black woman in the cake, lying motionless on a table in a room surrounded by a laughing crowd. Not one Black woman, not one Black person in the room, except the artist and his cake. Makode Aj Linde is seen with a blackened face screaming with pain each time a Swedish guest cuts a slice from the cake. We are horrified as we try to make sense of this artist’s actions and we are perplexed by his explanation of the art as an awareness raising piece on the “practice of female genital mutilation” in certain African communities, or a practice that many African women’s rights defenders have come to rename female genital cutting (FGC).

The moment that cake was presented; the moment that cake was eaten; the moment that cake caused joy and excitement, re-opening the marvel that white Europeans felt at exploiting African women’s bodies—specifically, the sexualized celebration, the entrapment, the cutting of the genitalia of the Sara Baartman-like black body, the ethics of the artist comes into serious question, even if not the art itself, for the sake of “art”, for the sake of non-censorship. Racism was propped up in its ugliest form, facilitated by a Black artist and perpetuated on the representation of the body of a Black female.

No one, including the artist seems to have consulted Black African women at the forefront of the movement to end the practice of female genital cutting, often with little resources and in direct and dangerous conflict with their own communities. We echo Shailja Patel in stating: “What makes the cake episode so deeply offensive is the appropriation, by both artist and his audience, of African women’s bodies and experiences, while completely excluding real African women from the discourse. It is a pornography of violence.”

We disagree with the artist, that the various statements, comments, letters, and responses flooding the blogosphere represent “a shallow analysis of the work”, of his art. As he expresses that it is “sad if people feel offended”, we too are saddened by his lack of analysis and his acquiesce to racist and misogynist systems that not only serve to undermine the humanity of Black women, but also of Black men.

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