Khadija Magardie
Khadija Magardie

Calling out a koek

One supposes it’s nice to know we aren’t the only ones who dissolve into giggles whenever anyone mentions koek.

Only this time, it really is a koek: red velvet sponge by the look of it. Meant to represent and symbolise … well, daai ander koek.

Confectionary’s (nudge nudge, wink wink) still big news (or, as the youth say, “trending”) in Scandinavia right now.

For those who haven’t heard, Sweden’s culture minister Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth is under pressure to resign after helping herself to a slice of a cake fashioned as a hideous caricature of a black woman, replete with blackface, thick red lips, pendulous breasts – and a massive (sugary) pudenda.

That Dr Frankencake happens to be a black man, has now become besides the point. The same goes for his entire point. He says he wanted to draw attention the genital mutilation of thousands of girls in Africa every year: which is why the coon cake (to call a spade a spade, as it were) shrieks in horror every time someone cut pieces off, especially from down there.

Feminists, professional anti-racists and activists have naturally condemned the diabolical dessert. But it’s not the artist who’s been getting it in the neck (one activist said he didn’t realise “the internalisation of his own racist experience”). It’s the blonde white culture minister, who, it’s been said, looked like she was having way too good a time slashing away at the velvety layers of sponge.

The region’s under a media spotlight since last year’s massacre in Norway by a crazed right-wing loon with delusions of grandeur.

And arguably it wasn’t exactly the smartest thing to be seen doing at a time when racism is reportedly on the rise in Scandinavia.

Maybe Lijeroth should’ve called up Arthur Mafokate for some advice. He’d maybe tell her the old koek metaphor just isn’t what it used to be – when he had the nation cutting lekhekhe back in 2006, the gender equality commission was on him for months.

Anyway, it wasn’t what was inside that was the problem – it was the icing, something of a metaphor for the entire scandal, actually. Few critics of the art would dispute the need to raise awareness about forced clitoridectomy – they say they just took issue with the way it was packaged.

The cake controversy resuccitates a favorite whine around South African dining room tables – why can’t we say/do/write/sing racially offensive words if they’re doing it? We all know that old hackneyed argument…

One such reader bleated on the talkback: “We call each other niggers so why get upset about a cake?”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of using less than charitable epithets to refer to not just to my boesman brethren, but also other women, in fits of passion. But to assume that someone has the licence to be racist or sexist by virtue of being ‘one of them’ is nothing short of hypocrisy.

Like the Don Imus “nappy-headed hos” controversy some years back, “Cake-Gate” has got many Swedes (and others) doing the mandatory ‘self-introspection’. Does siding with the artist make them racist? And does ‘calling out’ the artist (as the Americans like to say) on his cake make them a prude – unable to either take a joke or stomach what is clearly a satire?

This was one of the themes of Spike Lee’s fabulous 2000 film Bamboozled, where a black television executive got an unexpected reaction to his attempts to use crude stereotypes and caricatures to shock ‘the whites’. Instead of being horrified, they loved it. And felt they’d been given the ‘green light’ to tap into their inner racist because the show’s creator was black.

In a rather bizarre twist, parallels are being drawn between the cake – which looks like it could have been drawn by Tintin creator Herge – and the objectification of Saartjie Baartman, an actual person, a century ago.

Not seeing the wood for the trees has become something of a pastime for some feminists: they’re in a froth over this scandal when what they really should be upset about are the real millions of women who actually are having their genitals slashed in the name of culture and Islam across this continent and the Middle East. As the cliché goes, they’ve shot the messenger.

They’ve fallen for the old flim flam flooey – a bit of koek never did anybody any harm.

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    • Joe Soap

      Enjoyed your article.
      Life is for real so we must get real to live it, pleasant or not. Your last six lines say it all, all mouth and no action most of the time and the race card flying when they don’t understand what’s going on. I won’t claim to have the ultimate solution to that abhorrent crime against women but I would invade a country to stop it before going after its oil but maybe I’m nuts. Who the hell knows.

    • Ebrahim Ameer

      A humanitarian disgrace which Islam does not countenance.

    • atiyya

      I think that ‘in the name of Islam’ should rather read …” Having their genitals slashed by cultural male chauvinists purporting their gender discrimination & self powerlessness through the guise of female mutilation using the scapegoat of religion namely Islam, which in no way promotes or ever promoted such an abhorrent crime against humanity. ” Here’s a good point to remember. We should not judge a religion by its followers…but rather by its teachings & scriptures. Sounds like I’m being a bit defensive. And I am, as a muslim woman, in the light of all the islamophobia & hate propaganda directed at islam in the media, I feel its necessary to enlighten thinking society about the truth. As our prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) said “the truth shall set you Free”. And this ideology would do well to combat the areligious mentality of such practises in the regions in which clitoridectomy is practised. Any sexual crime is about power. Its never about sex appeal or religion or any other feeble excuse the perpetrators use.

    • MLH

      Some people believe that any publicity is good publicity and in this case, I’m sure more people have related to the incident than otherwise would have. Whether they got the gist of the message is doubtful. Whether they are inspired to do anything about it, more doubtful.
      I am somewhat saddened by how PC we have become…I really miss some of those Van der Merwe, the rooinek and Gamat jokes. I cannot relate them to evil at all; they seemed to me to be a link between our cacophony of SA differences.

    • Oldfox

      Poor choice by the artist. Poor taste by the minister and all those laughing people. There are some things we should not joke about – torture & slavery today, horrors of the Holocaust etc. Has nothing to do with being PC.

    • Graham Johnson

      Well written and titillating. It took me some years before I learned the Zulu word for that sacred part, and then all – so to speak – became obvious.

      A storm in a tea-cup, and religious sensitivities should be ignored. I don’t care what some loons think about their hereafter or their herenow.

      I DO care about female mutilation of ANY kind. Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth was RIGHT to highlight it, AND lampoon it. Mutilation is childish behaviour and needs a childlike response.

    • Balt Verhagen

      @ Graham

      If you refer to the word ‘koek’ as being Zulu then you know little about South African languages.It is of course derived from Afrikaans which in turn inherited the word from Dutch, in which, in certain circles, it is (informally) used for that other ‘cake’ you can get your teeth into. From the same source there are also words such as ‘doos’ (box) or ‘poes’ as in pussy, which are in more common use especially to designate an idiot. I doubt whether the more stately Zulu designation ‘umlomo wenhlunu’ is often used. The Afrikaans words are pithier, don’t you think?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Female Genital Mutilation only takes place in Africa, not in Arabia where Islam started – so obviously it is culture not Islam, although the Imams of North Africa say it is Islam to justify it.

      In fact the Koran forbids mutilation of the body.

      WHAT culture this practice, which stretches from Egypt to Somalia, comes from totally puzzles me. Certainly neither our Muslim nor Black population in South Africa have such a culture.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Female Genital Mutilation, the cutting off of the labia and clitoris, appears to be custom ONLY in Black Muslim North Africa.

      Nowhere else in the Muslim world of about 1.5 billion people have I heard of it being practiced.

      Nowhere else in the Black world of about 1.5 billion people have I heard of it being practiced.

      In other Muslim cultures men are circumcised but not women.

      In other Black cultures – Africa, Coastal Asia and the Pacific – men and often women as well have initiation ceremonies at puberty which sometimes includes male circumcision, and sometimes includes tatoos or body markings like O R Tambo, but not genital mutilation.

      So how did this combination of Arab and Black culture ONLY develop in North Africa? And why are the Imans not being taught that this is NOT either Islam or traditional Black culture?

    • Oldfox

      @Lyndall

      FGM is practiced today in Europe and USA by immigrants from countries where it is common. The procedure is done in modern hospitals and clinics.

      “From approximately 1900 – 1939, FGM was practiced in Australia kindergartens as a method of ‘curing the precocious masturbator’. This practice was not confined to Islamic groups, as some may suspect, but included Australians of European heritage.

      In Britain, the greatest period of clitoridectomies was from 1858 – 1866. Clitoridectomies were continued in the United States through 1925, replaced by circumcision through as late as 1937, and possibly 1948. It was believed that these procedures would stop masturbation, reduce women’s mental disorders, cure female complaints and prevent or stop nymphomania.”

    • Oldfox

      @MLH

      The message needs to get to the practitioners, not Westerners whose ancestors stopped practicing FGM thousands of years ago.

      Africans are spreading the message. Filmmakers have made documentaries that are shown in villages. Illiterate elderly women have even started speaking out about it.

      African ‘supermodels’ like Iman and Waris Dirie who suffered FGM themselves, publicly speak out about FGM – they get the message across a million times more effectively than the people involved in the dumb black cake stunt.

    • Oldfox

      Correction: Iman escaped the mutilation, because her parents lied and said she had been done. Her mother was a gyneocologist incidentally.

      Her cousin Dirie was appointed UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, by the then UN SG, Kofi Annan.

    • Oldfox

      @Lyndall,

      FGM is practiced outside of Black Muslin North Africa. Kenya, Northern Mozambique for example.

      Practiced among many Christians in North Africa e.g in Ethiopia ( which I wrote about in a TL blog about 3 years ago!).

      It’s is practiced outside of Africa and the Middle East too. In Sri Lanka for example, although there in incidence is low.

      More in affected countries here: http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-p.htm
      Click on the webpage to see other countries.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Oldfox

      Thanks for that info which I did not know – except the “mental health-masturbation” angle which I vaguely remember reading about and which I thought died out generations ago.

      I did know that immigrants are bringing out “aunties” to circumcise their girls – but if they are found out in Britain, their children, including the uncircumcised girls, get taken away from them and put into care.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Oldfox

      You might have supplied the key to the puzzle of why clitoridectomies are practiced from Egypt to Somalia.

      It is NOT Islamic practice – and not found anywhere else in the Muslim world.

      In is NOT Black culture – not even found in the prehistoric Black cultures of places like Borneo and Maori New Zealand. (Note: Before that word upsets someone – the scientific word “prehistorical” does not mean inferior, but means “before historical written records”)

      It is NOT, as far as I am aware, practiced in other parts of Mediterannean Africa.

      BUT Egypt had a strong interaction with Britain and France – Napoleon was fascinated with Egypt and even studied Arabic and read the Koran.

      Maybe this practice entered Egypt from Europe during the period of the nutty European psychologists – which is exactly the period of history you refer to!

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Oldfox

      When the Imans of North Africa are asked why they promote female genital mutilation, they first say it’s in the Koran. When it is pointed out to them it is NOT in the Koran they fall back on “it’s our culture”.

      The Canadian writer Phil Deutch, in his book “Witchdoctor’s Son-in-Law”, written while teaching in Botswana, gives an amusing explanation about how fast “it’s our culture” becomes an excuse.

      The government of Botswana issued a decree that their teachers had to wear suits and look respectable – in the sweltering heat?

      18 months later when asked why the teachers wore suits instead of safari suits in the heat, the reply was always “it’s our culture”

      A “culture” which was 18 months old?