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Sreedhar Pillai

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A Provocative Artistic Idea to Set a Taboo Right That Has Gone Wrong

Posted: 04/18/2012 4:02 pm

Isn't it amazing that in the age of social web and online media, there still are widely unknown facts which can only be exposed by on-ground art exhibitions? Like for example, the practice of mutilation of women's genitalia 140 million African women are living with, for the sake of traditions.

One can argue that it is a matter for the people of Africa to decide. After all, mutilation of other parts of the human body, like ears and lips, to adorn colorful and oversized ornaments that enhance beauty is part of customs still practiced by many African tribes.

The problem with the mutilation of female genitalia is that it is not the sort of thing you will discuss at a party or even on social media. Unfortunately, this means its existence and even continuation of its practice on the African continent. Many of us in the rest of the world may consider it barbaric and something to be avoided as not necessary for health and beauty. The practice is especially worrying if it is done on children who can't decide for themselves, which is not clear.

So when Makode Aj Linde, a Swedish-African artist, decided to use the subject for a provocative work of art to be exhibited in the World Art Day held in Stockholm, he probably chose the right subject. Something wrong with African life which he hoped to correct by the public opinion he could generate to increase the awareness and the need for giving African women a say in the matter.

His intention to shock the world to an awareness of the issue was clear from the caption he gave on his Facebook page for a picture of the exhibition.

Documentation from my female genital mutilation cake performance earlier today at stockholm moma. This is After getting my vagaga mutilated by the minister of culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. Before cutting me up she whispered "Your life will be better after this" in my ear. -- with Makode Linde and Paula Slav at Moderna Museet.

However, the stunning photos and video put out in the media and on the Facebook page of Malone Aj Linde gave a negative impression resulting in the Huff Post article getting thousands of comments and shares in a matter of hours.

No one has heard about the practice of mutilation of female genitalia. If it was a widely known subject, perhaps there would be less of a negative reaction but the whole thing would have been much less shocking.

The plight of 140 million women, after all, was not as important as the negativity of depicting the race as a piece of cake with female genitalia, to be exhibited, mutilated and eaten in public.

Now there is a bit of catch-22 situation here for Makode Aj Linde. How can he talk and get awareness on an unspeakable issue except by a shocking visual which everyone can understand?

The problem here is that the number of people who misunderstood his vision are far greater than those who got the message right.

If not for Malone Aj Linde, an artist of African origin, who could have opened the subject, which is so native to Africa for discussion? How can the incident then be considered anything racial? I wonder what would have happened if he was indeed a white Swede.

The call for the resignation of Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, the minister who happily participated in the exhibition, is equally unsettling as it is from a serious communication gap about her intentions and anti-racial credentials.

From the way the whole exhibition was reported and the huge negative reaction it has generated, especially in the world African population who tend to depict it as an outrage against African race and women, it looks like its intended purpose and artistic merit are getting lost in the cry of outrage.

 

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