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Sweden’s Minister of Culture Criticized for Cutting Cake

Sweden’s Minister of Culture Criticized for Cutting Cake

Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, Sweden’s minister of culture, started a spate of online arguments about her participation in a recent event when she was asked to cut into a cake at World Art Day at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm on Sunday. This was no typical square reception cake with butter cream frosting. Instead, the cake depicted the torso and head of a black woman lying on her back.

The actual cake that served as the center of the piece of artwork was made out of red sponge cake and made up the torso of the woman. The cake was covered with black fondant. The artist, Makode Aj Linde, placed his head at the top of the cake’s body to serve as the face of the woman. His face bore ornate makeup. The cake was designed to act as a piece of performance art geared towards creating awareness of racial discrimination and female suffering.

A video has gone viral of the minister, among other participants, cutting into the cake near the genital region of the woman’s body. This performance art was specifically designed to reflect issues of female genital mutilation in Africa, according to the artist. The minister was instructed to begin cutting into the cake in the groin area. The artist, whose head sat at the top of the torso, screamed as the minister cut into the flesh of the cake. Linde then continues to scream after each successive slice of cake is taken out of the genital region. According to Color Lines Liljeroth stated (at the artist’s request), “Your life will be better like this” before cutting into the cake for the first time.

This intense and startling video has set alight debates about the inherent messages of such a ceremony, and the value of highlighting female circumcision in such a provocative fashion. Critics of Liljeroth’s cutting of the cake argue that she was participating in the continuation of racism in Sweden. In fact, the African-Swedish Association has asked Liljeroth to step down from her post as the minister of culture because of her participation in the event.

Admittedly, the act of cutting the cake is surprisingly grotesque, even realistic. What makes the video so startling and surprising is the response to the art installation. People stand around laughing, chatting, and eating cake as you hear the disturbing screams coming from the artist over and over again. The atrocities visited upon the female body are trivialized in this reception atmosphere. Linde, an African-Swedish artist, designed the exhibit to ensure that people would cut around the genital region of the cake first in order to make for an uncomfortable and unsettling experience and also to highlight the pain of circumcision.

Linde argues that the piece was misunderstood and that it was meant to serve as one of the few pieces of African-Swedish art available in the country. According to The Guardian, Liljeroth stands by her decision to participate, stating that art should be provocative. The lack of attention paid to the mutilation of the black woman’s body during the event perhaps suggests the discomfort many people feel with discussing issues of racism, violence, and circumcision.  Kitimbwe Sabuni, spokesperson for the African-Swedish Association, stands by the assertion that the art was a racist caricature of real issues going on in Sweden in the present moment.

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96 comments

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11:34AM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

I think what we all SHOULD be seeing is the actual mutilation of these women. I think that video should be allowed and on every social outlet. It is time to take our heads out of the sand and see what is going on. This is so much more than a war on women; this is a war on equality, on decency.

Some of these people were laughing as they cut the cake and listened to the screams, how sad. Technology has advanced at a rapid pace, maybe too rapid but not so our morality or ethics, these things are still in caves.

4:02AM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

Let me clarify a few things. The African-Swedish Association has made their mark in history by attacking Herge's TinTin in Congo. They wanted it banned. Probably also burned, but that is just my interpretation at the time of the debate. They also demanded and got their reward when it came to a certain Swedish delicassy: A cake. It's a cake in the shape of a ball made from baking powder, water or cold coffee, oatmeal, cocoa, vanilla powder and butter. Since befor I was born it has always been called negro balls. I know, it's not a nice name like Devils Food Cake, but everyone knows what you mean and there's no disrespect intended in the name. Anyhow, the ASA got their demand met and the cake is now known as Chocolate balls. Problem is, there are already another Swedish delicassy named that. Confusion occurs. Mistakes are made. But WTH... Also, the ASA, only apperas in the media when it has some sort of grievance with traditions they don't like. Like the habit of the Parlament of making laws that prohibit traditions that cause physical harm to others, but are practiced by the people AHA represent.
As for the event in the article. The minister is a typical politician and have very little power in the Government and she's like most politicians unaware how ordinary people live. The artist mentioned has done other questionable installations that gives you a little more information about his real purposes in his artistic career. Google his name.

10:53AM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

Thanks

4:36AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

I get it, but I was appalled, and just not sure what to think. Except that they jusy should not have been laughing. THAT is what disturbs me most.

4:32AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

Performance art is often confusing to us uninitiated.

4:20AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

People have got this wrong. It was a protest by the artist re: FGM. Those standing round chatting and laughing as the cake is cut should be the ones getting flack, not the artist.

12:21AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

Thanks for the share.

12:00AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

The fact that the Minister is laughing suggests to me that she did not understand the meaning of the installation, i.e., to bring home to people that girls in parts of Africa and in other countries to which people from those parts have emigrated (it has happened in England) are subjected to clitorectomies and sewing up of most of the vaginal opening, and all this without anaesthetic. It is indeed a very real piece of work. On a more symbolic level, it may remind some of what the Republicans are trying to do to women.

8:39PM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

thanks :)

7:21PM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

Talk about creepy

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