A photo of the Swedish minister feeding the artist some of the cake (image via friatider.se via Facebook)

It’s hard to imagine what the Swedish culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth must have been thinking when she participated in the Moderna Museet’s “cake party” to address the problems of female circumcision. Featuring Swedish artist Makode Aj Linde  “dressed” as a female black African caricature, the images of white Swedes laughing while a prominent leader cuts a maimed black female cake should shock almost anyone.

Many Swedes of African descent are not happy. Kitimbwa Sabuni, spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund) told The Local.se that minister Liljeroth must resign.

“According to the Moderna Museet, the ‘cake party’ was meant to problematize female circumcision but how that is accomplished through a cake representing a racist caricature of a black woman complete with ‘black face’ is unclear,” Sabuni said in a statement published by The Local.

YouTube video

The artist who created the food art work, Makode Al Linde, is known as a provocateur. One series of objects, which was featured in his Afromatics show a few years ago, focused on racist African stereotypes. Linde has been posting about his controversial performance on his public Facebook page and referring to it as “my female genital mutilation cake performance.”

The comments on the artist’s Facebook page are as diverse as you might expect from such a shocking work. Some don’t shy away from using awful terms to describe the artist, many focus on him not being black enough (or a type of Uncle Tom), while others seem more supportive of his artistic tomfoolery.

One critical commenter, P.S.M., wrote:

how the f** is this clever. because you insulted and hurt black women and ppl of colour or any shade of humanity. do you think that the the pictures of whole families and communities standing smiling while crowing over a lynched dead body in the south of the USA are also fit for art consumption. what exactly were you saying that hasnt already been said you prick. really…. every mixed race black woman or man that sees you must be spitting right now. what next, House nigger art, camp faggotry ( cus you look like rick james’s bitch in this pic) jewcakes with gasmasks and the whites dressed as Nazi’s as they eat it. this is an example of intellectual laziness at best.

Another, Terngu Adamu Tyoer, was more supportive:

 you clever clever trouble maker! Just read the article and and the comments from other readers and all I can say is YOU DO KNOW HOW TO START A WAR don’t you now! lol Hope you are well! kram from rainy london! Xx

And this one by Kwamla Hesse did not shy away from criticizing the whole performance and the artist:

Make no mistake this is an incredible shocking and racist portrayal for any government minister to sanction. It points to the assumed level of understanding about racism amongst white people. The fact that it was produced by a Black artist is totally irrelevant!!!

Black people can be just as woefully ignorant about the dynamics of racism and how it plays out in our societies. Any point he was trying to make has been obliterated by his profound internalized self-hatred.

We’ve reached out for comment from the artist, who has agreed to answer some of our questions.

UPDATE: AP reports that the Stockholm museum was closed today as the result of a bomb threat. No bomb has been found.

h/t Henry Chalian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

13 replies on “Swedish Minister Caught in “Racist” Food Art Performance [UPDATED: Museum Closed Due to Bomb Threat]”

  1. Well, black or not.. he is still not a woman… and this work on its face is pretty fucking appalling. 

  2. …as is female circumcision. It
    becomes sticky when “art” is concerned. Makode Aj Linde who’s made the
    cake is known for using this likeness/style in his creative commentaries
    on social issues. If this is really in poor
    taste (I’m not cognizant enough of Sweden’s cultural climate to judge),
    the blame should also go to the artist. On the other hand, if this
    (performance?) act caused discussion about the (female circumcision)
    issue, then it should be lauded as a successful performance piece even
    though it’s strongly divisive. Reminds me of Piss Christ, which was also scandalous, but became an important piece historically.

    1.  Piss Christ was made by a Catholic and was not meant to be controversial or even all that meaningful outside of being visually stunning.. because, lets face it, Serrano isn’t exactly the deepest artist out there.

  3. The picture says it all: white people gleefully engaging with racial taboos under the guise of art. Is this what it takes for a black artist to get noticed in Sweden? or just a really bad artist? Then again, I’m sure there are more outlandish ways of imagining genital mutilation. Is it unreasonable to reappopriate dated, although no less potent, visual signifiers (minstrel cartoon) for the sake of activism?  Is black face off limits as a cultural touchstone regardless of context?

  4. I’m amazed there are only three comments so far on this thread! Really, what the hell was everyone over there thinking?

  5. WTF. That photograph speaks volumes.

    *If* Makode Al Linde actually conceived the project by anticipating the kind of response it truly has gotten, he’s brilliant at using himself as the agent provocateur.  Regardless of that, the work fails at problematizing female circumcision, and instead reveals the more sinister post-colonial racist status quo, by getting people to take ignorant glee in such a destructive act.  In this way the performance succeeds at implicating those who want to wash their hands of the past. I’m wondering if “problematizing female circumcision” was simply bait…?
    Can’t wait to hear what the artist has to say.

  6. We’ve posted an new interview with the artist, who we spoke to today, here: http://hyperallergic.com/50140/controversial-afro-swedish-artist-speaks-its-a-disturbing-picture-but-its-also-a-disturbing-subject/

  7. The calls for the ministers resignation are unfounded and her actions and statements are being taken far out of contest. Think about it, way would a high profile official, who happens to be a woman, who is very aware of the press, intentionally do something against women or race? According to the artist, the ministers attendance was unplanned. My read on the minister is that she is not quite sure how to respond, and her discomfort is self-projected as playful silliness, at one point she even breaks with the performance by emotionally separating the artist from the performance, feeding him cake.  
    I’d say the piece was successful, and continues to evoke discomfort, an emotion that is often expressed or released as laughter.About me, I love and respect all beings living on this planet, I try to limit my judgement of others, understanding that we’re all moving through life learning about ourselves and evolving consciously.

  8. Can you imagine black people doing this to a cake depicting a white caveman? All of the shit that these people have openly done to us through out history, you would think that they’ve evolved just a little.. Your conscience, your soul, your core principles and the thought of consequences had to be missing to participate in something like this. None of these beings know what institutional Racism, discrimination and castigation truly feels like. The Height of Racism. One of white members should have felt unconformable enough to speak up and say this is wrong and insensitive. I have no words for the so called Afro-Swedish person, you have given a platform to really don’t care about you are your so called art. in my opinion you’ve have committed treason on African culture and art. I hope this brought chuckles to you like did to the all white on lookers, yep… fun had be all.    This really pisses me off.

  9. There is nothing that is not moronic about this entire situation. And people say the USA is the most racist country in the world…not even hardly is it.

  10. Disgusting and macabre – and the cannibalic “culture minister” Lena Adelsohn is laughing! If I had been there I would have mashed the disgusting cake into her face!

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