A shocking controversy has come out of Sweden after the countries Minister of Culture, Lena Andelsohn Lijeroth was photographed performing genital mutilation on a cake in the shape of a cartoonish, stereotypical African woman. Amidst the backlash a bomb threat was called in at Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art two days later, while the artist who designed the cake maintains that his work is just misunderstood.
Lijeroth is facing calls to step down after photos of the culture minister laughing while carving up the racist cake on Sunday surfaced. However, she told the TT news agency that she understands why the cake was offensive, and claimed that she had no advance knowledge of its design.
It was a bizarre situation, Lijeroth said. I was invited to speak at World Art Day about the freedom of art and the right to be provocative, and then they asked me to cut up the cake.
According to radio Sweden, the cake was meant to highlight the issue of genital mutilation (also known as female circumcision), which is considered a human rights violation by many and is still practiced on woman in some parts of Africa. But the Association for African Swedes has vocally denounced Lijeroth, stating that the cake was a crude and racist caricature and demanding that the minister resign.
Kitimbwa Sabuni, a spokesperson for the organization, told the Swedish media, To say that you did this for a good cause only makes the mockery of people who are victims of racism and of circumcision worse.
Makode Linde, A Stockholm-born, black artist, argued that his work is misunderstood. He told BBC that his art has always confronted prejudice and oppression head on.
I've been doing this by revamping black faces into different contexts so when the Swedish Art Organization asked me to design a cake for them it felt totally natural.
The cake in question was designed in the shape of the top half of a naked African woman, while the inside was filled with sponge cake, colored blood-red. Linde painted his own face and took the place of the cake's head by sticking his neck through a hole in the table.
On Tuesday morning local time a bomb threat caused the museum where the event took place two days earlier to be evacuated for several hours. A police spokeswoman, Lotta Goffhe, said that they received the threat in a phone call from an English speaking man, and that no bomb was found. It is unclear if the bomb threat was related to the racist cake controversy.