There’s an age old adage that goes something along the lines of ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, but make no mistake, there are also some that will leave you utterly speechless. Recent images showing Sweden’s Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth cutting a slice of cake out of the genitals of a racist characterisation of an African woman definitely falls into the latter category.
The incident was reported to have taken place at Stockholm’s Moderna Muséet on April 15, and was part of an installation by the artist Makode Linde for World Art Day. In the video below, Linde, whose head is seen painted in blackface situated above the shoulders of the elaborate confection, screams every time the knife is lifted to the cake’s nether-regions, revealing, grossly, the blood-coloured interior of what one can only assume is red velvet cake.
In this video, filmed after the minister cut the cake's first slice, other attendees serve themselves to the cake while the artist screams in mock pain. Video posted on YouTube by Pontus Raud.
The images quickly circulated on social media, sparking outrage and calls for Liljeroth to step down. Sweden’s National Afro-Swedish Association went on to slam the event as “a racist spectacle”, according to local English language newspaper The Local.
Meanwhile, Linde has posted a number of photos and videos of the performance on his Facebook page, which he described as: “Documentation from my female genital mutilation cake performance earlier today at stockholm moma. This is after getting my vagaga [sic] 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”.
On Wednesday, the culture minister apologised on her ministry's website: "My role as minister differs from that of the artist. Provocation can not and should not be an expression for those who have the trust and responsibility of Government representative. I therefore feel it is my responsibility to clarify that I am sincerely sorry if anyone has misinterpreted my participation." In the Guardian, she also clarified the artist's message: "He claims that it challenges a romanticised and exoticised view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism,” she said. “Art needs to be provocative.”