This is impossible to describe, but let me try. It is performance art. A cake, iced and shaped as a black woman in the vein of a black- faced minstral from the 1930’s. The whole performance art piece was a protest against genital mutilation. The cake is the body of a black woman that has no legs but genitals, or at least a clitoris. This depiction alone is thoroughly distasteful.
I was shocked, horrified, angered and insulted when I saw it. I thought “these people are out of their minds. What the hell is this”? I read comments from friends who called it outrageous; who were equally insulted and affronted. They called it racist. They called it misogynistic. Indeed, I agreed.
There wasn’t just the picture, there was a video. Each time the cake was cut the head of the cake, which was the artist, screamed in pain, and the assembled people laughed. The Swedish minsister of culture, who is a woman, as a woman, should have known better, I thought. She cut the clitoris of the cake and with a big smile on her face fed it to the artist’s mouth. I wonder if she had any awareness of the symbolism of this action.
The whole thing is thoroughly demeaning, disgusting, distasteful, cannibalistic and without question offensive not only to Black Women, but to all percipient members of human race. There is no defence for it.
The Swedish minister of culture said: “I understand quite well that this is provocative and that it was a rather bizarre situation. I was invited to speak at World Art Day about art’s freedom and the right to provoke. And then they wanted me to cut the cake.”
There is a school of thought that art should be provocative and shocking and make political statements in order to be relevant. This piece certainly fits the brief.
In the midst of my visceral response, I asked myself if this piece of art is not successful. We are provoked and shocked. We are outraged. But, are we provoked and we are shocked, but about what?
This is a protest against genital mutilation. Is this thing, this cake and it’s horrifying image not made more than horrifying when one thinks of what is actually done to women. Some might say that they don’t circumcise women up to their waist. I would say, Yes that is exactly what they do. They circumcise the whole body and the essential spirit.
I said that I was shocked, horrified, angered and insulted. Is this about the cake or the genital mutilation? I said that it was thoroughly demeaning, disgusting, distasteful, cannibalistic. Again, am I talking about the cake or the genital mutilation?
Is this cake and this piece of performance art not important in reminding the world to be outraged into action by the sickening fact that millions of women have their clitoris and labia cut off. Yes this cake is barbaric, but the cake is not the thing to get furious about. We need to be furious that women are barbarically mutilated. The cake is a message. The artist is the messenger. We shouldn’t shoot the messenger. We should spread the message. We should change the reality.
On one site I read a woman’s account of her experience. “The blood pumped out in waves. Words can’t describe the pain. The bleeding was so bad I was rushed to hospital. That is why I am celibate to this day.”
More than 100 million women suffer globally.
On another site it says, “The UN considers female circumcision torture. Human rights activists worldwide see it as a major women’s rights violation and a broader debate is needed”.
You see, I think that’s a bunch of bull. Debate? What is there to debate? Should we debate whether the brutal torture of young women in a way that boggles the mind is acceptable? Should we be debating whether or not this practice should be ended? It should be ended. It should be treated as a crime. It is a crime. There needs to be less debate and more decisive action. This cake is a decisive action which should result in much more than more debate.
According to Wikipedea Female Genital Mutilation is carried out on girls from a few days old to puberty. It may take place in a hospital, but is usually performed, without anesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife, razor, or scissors.
The main three methods of mutilation are:-
Type I – removal of the clitoris and inner labia. and
Type III – (infibulation), removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is opened for intercourse and childbirth.
Around 85 percent of women who undergo gential mutilation experience Types I and II, and 15 percent Type III.
Several miscellaneous acts are categorized as
Type IV – These range from a symbolic pricking or piercing of the clitoris or labia, to cauterization of the clitoris, cutting into the vagina to widen it (gishiri cutting), and introducing corrosive substances to tighten it.
With these facts in front of you, when you look at the cake and the it’s depiction you must see that the performance art protest, though horrific, is not as savage and violent as the inhumanity and desecration that is committed against millions of women on a world wide scale, and which the WHO wants to debate into the next millennium.
I’m no longer outraged by the cake. I think if the storm created by the cake can be translated into warfare against the senseless act of genital mutilation of women and children, then maybe the barbaric practice can be brought to an end. I commend the effrontery of this artist.