Sweden’s culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth said Wednesday that she has no intention of resigning over the cake cutting scandal. A Swedish organization promoting the rights of people of African origin on Tuesday called for the minister to resign for participating in a “tasteless, racist spectacle” that has made international headlines.
“According to Moderna Museet, the cake eating party was intended to highlight the problem of female circumcision, but how this is supposed to be done with a cake depicting a racist caricature of a black woman … is unclear,” said Kitimbwa Sabuni, head of the African Swedish National Association.
I am the first to agree that Makode Linde’s piece is highly provocative since it deliberately reflects a rasist stereotype. But the actual intent of the piece - and Makode Linde’s artistry - is to challenge the traditional image of racism, abuse and oppression through provocation. While the symbolism in the piece is despicable, it is unfortunate and highly regrettable that the presentation has been interpreted as an expression of racism by some. The artistic intent was the exact opposite.
As Minister for Culture it is my responsibility to safeguard the conditions for and independence of art and culture. At the same time, it is also my job to uphold the democratic values that counter racism, intolerance and xenophobia.
I chose to open World Art Day to turn the spotlight on art and freedom of expression. The Swedish Artists’ National Organization chose in turn to highlight Makode Linde to bring attention to his anti-racist artistry. Through the ceremony, however, I became personally involved in Makode Linde’s highly provocative form of expression.
Speaking to the NY Times’ The Lede blog on Tuesday night, the artist who created the cake sculpture defended his work and rejected claims that he was racist.
Makode Linde’s intention for the works, he said, is “revamping the blackface into a new historical narrative and sort of lifting invisible prejudice to an exaggerated level, where it’s becoming over-obvious and in a way more in your face and easier to talk about.”
Linde is mixed-race—Swedish mother and West-African father—and said the issue is very close to his heart.
“Over the surface racism is very easy to attack but the most of the racism I face today is more subtle, under the surface racism and by lifting it from invisible to be visible is important.”
The museum was evacuated Tuesday after they received a bomb threat from an english speaker that accused the museum of being racist.