Sweden’s minister of culture has been in the global news spotlight recently, and not for her nation’s propensity for neo-noir literature. Minister Lena Adelson Liljeroth was invited to attend and speak at World Art Day at Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art. The engagement took a turn for the bizarre when Liljeroth was invited by artist Makode Linde to cut into the most controversial cake in recent history. Linde’s edible creation was shaped in the likeness of a stereotyped native African woman and was blood-red inside; the artist’s head appeared above the cake torso and shrieked whenever a guest cut a piece of the confection. Linde stated that his intention with the piece (which was part of a series “illustrating degrading stereotypes of black people through history”) was to call attention to the horrors of female genital mutilation.
While the African Swedish National Association has called for Liljeroth’s resignation, the minister has refused to leave office over the incident. She recently issued a statement which included the proclamation that “art must be allowed to provoke,” noting that despite the “despicable” symbolism of Linde’s cake, the artist’s intention was “the opposite” of the “expression of racism” many have taken it to be. Liljeroth goes on to write that she is “sincerely sorry” for misinterpretation of her involvement in the piece, and that she “welcomes talks with the African Swedish National Association on how we can counter intolerance, racism, and discrimination.”
And now for a sampling of commentary on the incident from assorted bloggers.
“How ridiculously offensive can you get?
Not only were they cutting a ridiculously-designed image of a black woman, they were actually in the video below “performing a clitoridectomy on the cake,” apparently to bring awareness to the global practice of female circumcision.
Because cutting off a clitoris is so funny!
What is worse? That they actually put this together or that they didn’t even feel guilt in being this disrespectful to African people? Where does this racism and bigotry come from?
History is continuing to repeat itself.”
“Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth has defended her actions by saying “that art was meant to be provocative, and that the pictures of the event are misunderstood.”
I’m not so convinced. I have no idea about what she is like as a person but at the very least she is a politician and should have been acutely aware of how her actions would be portrayed. What do you think?”
“And I’m left wondering – whatever the artist himself says – if the intended artwork here is not the cake, nor the performance, but the picture. Because what Makode Linde and Marianne Lindberg De Geer have produced is a picture which is incredibly powerfully laden with symbolism of colonial exploitation.
The all-white crowd, laughing bayingly and taking pictures while the African Other screams in anguish.”
What’s your take on this Swedish cake-tastrophe?