On Sunday the Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth cut in to a large cake shaped like a black woman as part of an art installation which was reportedly meant to highlight the issue of female circumcision. The event took place at Moderna Museet which reports say is partly funded with public tax dollars.
Makode Aj Linde, the artist who created the installation and whose head is part of the cake cut by the minister, wrote about the “genital mutilation cake” on his Facebook page: “Documentation from my female genital mutilation cake performance earlier today at stockholm moma. This is After getting my vagaga mutilated by the minister of culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. Before cutting me up she whispered “Your life will be better after this” in my ear,” the artist wrote on Facebook.
“According to sources Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was invited to declare festivities open by performing a clitoridectomy on the cake, which she did by removing the cake woman’s labiums,” reports Swedish news site Friatider.Se.
The 31-year old artist uses mass cultural icons which he revamps into a new historically manipulated narrative. “Contemporary western ideas of paradise and the romanticizing of exotica and the ‘simple life’ collide with history’s gruesome facts of slavery, apartheid and racism,” the artist’s website proclaims.
“In our view, this simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden,” Kitimbwa Sabuni, spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund) told The Local.
“The objectification of the black female body via the cartoonish color scheme distances the viewers from the victim’s humanity,” said Akiba Solomon, who blogs about gender matters on Colorlines.com. “I can’t imagine that any victim of female genital mutilation or sexual exploitation would feel the least bit empowered or represented by this—more like mocked and exploited.”
Sabuni went on to say “this was a racist spectacle.”
“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.
“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.
Makode: It’s sad if people feel offended, but considering the low number of artists in Sweden who identify as Afro-swedish I find it sad that the Afro-Swedish Association haven’t followed my artistry and do not understand what my work is about.
What did the minister of culture say to you when she was there? Was she hesitant about eating of the cake?
Makode: I didn’t clearly see her reaction, but judging from the pictures she was surprised when she realised that the cake was living. And before she put the knife into me, into the cake, she said “Your life will be better like this”. And when she put the knife into me I started screaming and begged her to stop. This was a part of the performance.
But what was the thought behind you being a living head?
Makode: I wanted to somehow make the cake more human, not just a silent object. More interactive, simply.