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Racism? Art? PSA? Or all three? The disturbing spectacle of Makode Linde’s human cake

Racism? Art? PSA? Or all three? The disturbing spectacle of Makode Linde’s human cake


A male artist, in the most offensive caricature blackface imaginable, creates an anatomical nude female red velvet cake and invites Sweden’s Minister of Culture to give him/her a symbolic cliteridectomy by cutting the genital slice first. Oh, and Mr. Linde screams and moans. Then he eats the cake.

The internet was quick to react.

Sweden’s African-Swedish Association called it “a racist spectacle”.

Jezebel wrote, “I hope you spent the morning warming up your What The Everloving Hell reaction muscles, because this will require you to use all of them.”

Swedish Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth denies doing anything wrong, according to the Guardian, but admits that Mr. Linde’s artistic statement about female genital mutilation in Africa may have been confusing. “He claims that it challenges a romanticised and exoticised view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism,” she said. “Art needs to be provocative.”

And this installation for Sweden’s “Art Week” certainly is… provocative:

Once you get past the outrage, however, there are some interesting points to consider.

First of all Makode Linde is himself an “Afro-Swede”. And he is somewhat of a specialist in art that incorporates old-school caricatures of African people.


Says the Afro-Europe blog:

“Makode Linde is known for in his art, which is based on racism, xenophobia and slavery. The cake, which was part of his work, was to make a Western perception of Africa in contrast to the real picture of slavery and oppression. He also stresses that the main purpose of the cake was not to depict mutilation.”

I have a hard time buying that last bit, but one could say there is a certain artistic licence granted to a person making a statement about how others view part of his own heritage.

Animal NY’s art blogger Marina Galperina took a step back and tried to find some artistic merit in it:

“Is there anything redeeming about this piece? This cake cutting is a horrific spectacle — the red, the screams, the giggles — almost as if the Scandinavia’s apathy towards the issue of female circumcision is exaggerated through the aggressive trivialization and the cake-cutters are purposely made complicit in the violence. Also, it’s kitschy and absurd, but for obvious reasons, that’s not the first thing you think about either.

When Marina Abramović dismembered an oozing cake version of herself and Deborah Harry at the MoCA, some of the swanky gala guests chanted “Violence against women!” This is violence against women:

Female genital mutilation is the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia. In its most severe form, a woman or girl has all of her genitalia removed and then stitched together, leaving a small opening for intercourse and menstruation. It is practiced in 28 African countries on the pretext of cultural tradition or hygiene.

The degrading torture, extreme pain, lifelong consequences of this ordeal does not make it off-limits for artistic critique. Does “getting my vagaga mutilated” work? Had the response been different if Makode had a “vagaga” or if he was white? Is this the worst photo-op in the history of Swedish politics?”


The answer to at least one of Ms. Galperina’s questions is, thankfully, easy. The rest? Not so much.

UPDATE: (Via Adland‘s Åsk Dab Wappling, on Twitter) Stockholm’s Moderna Musee was evacuated today due to a bomb threat. It is unknown if the terrorism is related to the art scandal.

Makode Linde
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I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more


  1. Anthony T. 5 years ago

    I’ve been immersed in racism lately, and this. Idk, I’m still trying to rap my head around this and understand exactly what the artist was trying to put across? Just awareness? Or? Idk…

  2. eugenio 5 years ago

    boring boring boring. I can’t find nothing more boring when artist wants to make provocations. They look like amateurs campaigners unable to go to the point. Or, being malicious, you can say they are very good to make people talk about the artist itself and not the opera.
    Don’t trust contemporary art 🙂

  3. Ester 5 years ago

    I just think he wants to become famous by getting as much attention he can. To create something hurtful that can provoke as many people as possible and then mix it with words about racism, homofobia (?) yes this piece is about that too according to the artist:)
    It’s a lot of words but it doens’t make sense. Scroll down to listen to the confused artist:)

  4. Ester 5 years ago

    This guy seem to be lost and very superficial in his behavior. He love to be in the center of intention, red carpet type and we will probably se him soon in some type of reality show for sure. He is horny for attention.

    I think this swedish artist just need to figure out who he is, and get more depht.
    The complex of problems he seem to have, could go back to the lack of belonging. At least this is what I can read between the lines. It could have to do with the fact that he has no black identy. No black backround.

    His mother is probably white, and the father black. He probably didn’t grew up with the father. Thats the only explanation to this I can see.

    He is not in the afro-swedish community and he probably doesn’t understand their strong reactions. He never walked in their shoes. He was never a victim of the american caricatures of black people or have any background in that history.

  5. Richard Miller 5 years ago

    I can understand what the artist was trying to do, I guess, but bottom line is that you don’t make a cake out of something horrible. Cakes are understood, at least in our culture, to be celebratory. Cakes are fun. Cakes and mutilation don’t go together.

    That having been said, I must say that it raised my own awareness of female “circumcision”. I’ll never get that image out of my brain. Especially disturbing is that the “head” is real (alive), and screaming.

    So, is it art, or an art fart? That’s for the beholder to decide. I’ll vote the latter, myself.

  6. Stephen Marsh 5 years ago

    I really liked his concept and the thinking behind his piece.  I’m not surprised that some people (even some black brothers and sisters) found it offensive, because it was meant to challenge.

    As black people, we should be able to make statements through our music and art, which address difficult issues in the world, like racism, without fear.  We’ve spent enough time being scared, centuries in fact. 

    Now we are free to think and say what we want.  If you don’t like it, don’t look..  If you don’t like our music, don’t listen.  If you don’t like what we say, ignore us..  But don’t imagine for even a second that you can tell us what to think…

  7. Tom Megginson 5 years ago

    Thank you for your perspective, Stephen. We try to look at these things from all angles.

  8. Marjorie 5 years ago

    First, I checked if the artist was black (under his make-up). He is, and he is also described as an artist very engaged in the topics of racism and xenophobia. So, it’s quite strange he did something so controversial… I though, according to his background, that he would have looked for opinion of his network. (Being aware of a social issue often brings a social network interested in the same topic.)

    The cake, to me, is a powerful medium. Not confirmed positive or negative at this moment. I ask a question: if the cake have been cutted by an actor, and the whole event have been a performance instead of a PR relations, would the reaction have been different?

    Would it have been understood as a denounciation of the current international welfare programs? (The way I see it, white people can have a stereotyped representation of the black one and can construct an ‘feel-good-industry-because-we-help’ around a dramatically real social issue.)

    Would it have been seen as «African societies get fed up with some uneffective help from international NGO/governmental initiatives and would like to be supported or trusted more treated as a cake)?

    I’m trying to analyse how that art event failed to depict correctly a difficult issue, and I am interested to know your opinion.

  9. Mich 5 years ago

    The reaction of the cake-cutters, not the cake, is the most disturbing thing here. Apparently FGM is hilarious to Swedes?

  10. marcos 5 years ago

    Controversy Sells

  11. jiggy 5 years ago

    I see this art as Europeans taking a big piece of African resources on it’s plate and feeding starving screaming africans with their own mutulated belongings.

  12. to 5 years ago

    This is a typical example of a mixed-raced kid who turns racist against the race of one of his parents. Obviously, he being colored make it easier for all the racists to get racist work “art” out.

    Self-hate in all its manifestation

  13. Anita 5 years ago

    Basically the artist is an idiot, It is too hard for blacks to be taken serious in society as it is to be used as negative art. I must say that I found it very barbaric for anyone to even what to cut into a body and eat it especially if it was supposed to represent something so horrible and genital mutilation. All he did was make a joke out of blacks and the mutilation itself. No real artist would have thought of this as a way to bring attention to the subject. My feeling as others I see agree is to bring attention to himself and he did not care what he used to get it with. SELL SELL SELL, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and the love of it. YOU SIR, ARE NO ARTIST!

  14. Lina 4 years ago

    I agree, this artist is an idiot. it would take me too long to type all the reasons why. I hope he doesn’t get more publicity in the future.

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