A "racist cake" designed to highlight the issues of female genital mutilation, is causing controversy after the Swedish culture minister, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, was seen eating the shocking dessert Sunday.
The "racist cake"— designated as such by scores of outraged critics— was made and served at Stockholm's Museum of Modern art to celebrate World Art Day in Sweden. The performance art piece depicts an almost black African woman as a cake, with the genitals being served to guests. The piece gets particularly brutal when the artist, Makode Linde, participated by becoming part of the cake, screaming every time his "body" was sliced with the knife.
Now, amid many calling for Liljeroth to step down from her position, the culture minister offered a statement explaining the dessert.
"I am the first to agree that Makode Linde's piece is highly provocative since it deliberately reflects a racist [sic] stereotype. But the actual intent of the piece … is to challenge the traditional image of racism," stated the Liljeroth. "It is unfortunate and highly regrettable that the presentation has been interpreted as an expression of racism by some."
Although Linde himself is of African descent, the stark, cartoonish portrayal of the heinous tradition still being practiced in parts of the continent still rang as racist to some. The fact that Sweden prides itself as "the country where racism is just a joke" prompted outrage from publications worldwide.
"Most people would consider female genital mutilation (FGM) to be a deeply harrowing issue, and that its victims should be treated with respect and sensitivity," wrote Jallow Momodou for the The Guardian. "In Sweden, though, it seems it's a laughing matter, and that racial slurs can be thrown in too."
Linde, however, thought his piece only represented the uneasiness that comes with the discussion of such a taboo topic. For the artist, there is no way to be "cozy" when discussing FGM.
"I didn't intend for anyone to feel singled out or embarrassed," he told CNN. "But we're talking about female genital mutilation – is there any comfortable way to talk about it?"
The same uneasiness has crept into the relationship between the National Association for Afro-Swedes and the culture minister. They demanded Liljeroth resign, and alleged that she doesn't truly understand the implications of racism in the art.
"To participate at a racist manifestation portrayed as art is definitely crossing the line," said Kitimbwa Sabuni, a representative of the organization, in a written statement. He also charged that "she has an extremely bad sense of questions of racism" because she supported the event.