While obviously I agree the cake was offensive to black women, it was in such poor taste and with the obvious intention to provoke a reaction that by making too much of a fuss over it is given the artist too much credit and the reaction he was clearly going for.
I came across 'cake-gate' (as some are calling it) last week through my correspondences with Black Feminist UK, before I had seen the clip and read up on the story for myself I had from all the comments made in-vision a clip capturing white observers laughing and relishing in the scene of a black female body grotesquely decapitated (yes I have vivid imagination), though you can imagine my surprise to find all the fuss was about a moaning cake!
Having watched the clip without knowing the issue the 'art' was said to be addressing my initial feeling was that the moaning cake comicalised the pain and suffering of black womanhood, reducing our pain once again to a form of light entertainment white people enjoy consuming over cake! Popular culture are riddled with examples of the degrading of the black female struggle, think Misha B from last years X-Factor, the hard done by and aggressive singing contestant, the character Denise from Eastenders or any of the black female Hollywood Oscar winners in films that again perpetuate the hard lived and feisty attitude of black women (see our previous post Hard being black in Hollywood).
My feelings after knowing that the cake was said to be addressing female genital mutation didn't change nor did it help put the 'art' in any context, in fact to some extent it only added further insult to injury since female genital mutation is a cultural tradition upheld in some black societies and cultures so by getting white people to take a stab at the genitals of a black female shaped cake only trivialises a serious issue.
Also I really don't think cake is an appropriate medium for political social art. While I'm an avid watcher of the Food Network show Ace of cakes and I have much respect for the craft and skill which goes into decorative cake making, cake is cake, a celebratory food usually consumed at large gatherings and creates a joyful ruckus. Not exactly the right medium to encourage contemplation of thought, especially not when it’s connected to a blacken face making comical moans of pain!
I don't see the moaning cake as serious art nor does it convey its intended message; instead it was simply a shock tactic used to elevate the artist's stature and highlight whatever issue it was said to be promoting by drumming up some controversy. I mean in the 21st century who in their right mind doesn't know that blackening their face will provoke racist outrage, black or white you are going to cause offence!
It is also very disheartening that the white people involved in the art instillation especially Sweden's Cultural Minister could not gauge for themselves that the art would offend, though I'm very sure that the fact that it was a black artist ridiculing is his own race made them all the more comfortable to engage in this piece.
I do think its very important to dress down this piece of racist art and to highlight the poor judgments of those that where evolved, though due to its blatant offensive nature I fear kicking off too much of a fuse and providing the story with prolonged media attention is playing into the artists hands. Like child rearing you don't give naughty children the attention and reaction they attempt to provoke.
On a similar note, Black Feminist UK are organising a protest outside the Swedish Embassy in
Does Swedens cakegate point racial problems, aljazeera.com
Swedish minister denies claims of racism over black woman cake stunt, guardian.co.uk
Swedish minister in 'racist cake' controversy, bbc.co.uk
Swedish museum evacuated After Bomb Threat, huffingtonpost.com