Thu, Apr 19, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Swedish minister denies claims of racism

IS IT ART?The African-Swedish association called for the culture chief to resign over her role in an art event supposedly highlighting female genital mutilation and racism

The Guardian, LONDON

Swedish Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth has been accused of racism after cutting a cake depicting a naked black woman.

Aelsohn Liljeroth was taking part in an event at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the capital’s museum of modern art and home to works by Picasso and Dali. She was invited to cut the cake, an art installation meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation. She began, as instructed, by taking a chunk from the cake’s “clitoris.”

The artist, Makode Aj Linde, who created the installation for World Art Day on Sunday, took part in the cake-cutting, with his blackened face and head sticking up next to the cake’s stomach and arms. The cake’s “insides” were a gruesome red. A video shows him screaming loudly every time a visitor hacks off another slice of the cake.

Linde posted photos of the “genital mutilation cake” on his Facebook page, but the images provoked a furious response, with the African-Swedish Association describing it as “a racist spectacle.”

“This simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden,” association spokesman Kitimbwa Sabuni told the Local newspaper:

The association has demanded her resignation. In a statement, Sabuni said the association doubted a cake party meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation had achieved its aim. Instead, the cake was just “a racist caricature of a black woman.”

He said the minister’s decision to take part in a dubious event with cannibalistic overtones showed her “incompetence and lack of judgement.”

“Her participation, as she laughs, drinks and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision,” he said.

Adelsohn Liljeroth said she sympathized with the criticisms, but denied she had done anything wrong. Speaking to the TT news agency, she conceded the event was provocative and bizarre, and said she had been invited to speak about artistic freedom and the right to offend.

“They wanted me to cut the cake,” she added.

Ultimately, the artist was to blame for any confusion, she said, adding that the situation had been misinterpreted.

“He claims that it challenges a romanticized and exoticized view from the West about something that is really about violence and racism,” she said. “Art needs to be provocative.”

Sabuni dismissed the remarks and said they were “extremely insulting.”

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