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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Sense8 – The full spectrum of life and love
  • Decolonizing the Self, transforming psychology
  • Obituary: Prof Bame Nsamenang, committed humanist and leader in African psychology
  • Language: An emotive issue