Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth is at the center of a firestorm brought on by her participation in cutting a cake in the shape of a naked black woman that many are calling racist.
Liljeroth was participating in a World Art Day event at Stockholm’s modern art museum, Moderna Museet, where she was asked to cut a cake in the form of a black woman’s torso. The cake was created by artist Makode Aj Linde, whose head poked through a hole in the table as the woman’s head.
Linde said that the cake was meant to draw awareness to the issues of female circumcision and racism.
As Liljeroth cut into the genital area of the red sponge cake, Linde mock screamed, “No. No.” The minister and the people surrounding the table laugh and take photos, which can be seen in video of the event.
The video and images sparked outrage, most notably from the National Afro-Swedish Association, which is calling for the Liljeroth’s resignation.
“The Museum of Modern Art’s cake party meant to problematize female circumcision, but how this should be done with a cake depicting a racist caricature of a black woman, complete with blackface is unclear,” the group’s spokesman Kitimbwa Sabuni said in a statement on the group’s website.
Sabuni said that museums can do as they please within legal limits, but that there are higher standards for Sweden’s highest political leaders.
“Taking part in a racist manifestations masquerading as art is that clearly cross the line and can only be interpreted as the Minister of Culture supports the Moderna Museet’s racist prank,” Sabuni wrote.
Sabuni called for Liljeroth’s resignation and urged supporters to write and demand it from Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
Liljeroth conceded that she understood the controversy but insisted that the incident was misinterpreted, according to Swedish English-language newspaper the Local.
“I understand quite well that this is provocative and that it was a rather bizarre situation,” Liljeroth said. “I was invited to speak at World Art Day and about art’s freedom and the right to provoke. And then they wanted me to cut the cake.”
She said the anger could be more appropriately directed at the artist, Makode Aj Linde
“[Linde] claims that it challenges a romanticized and eroticized view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism,” Liljeroth said. “Art needs to be provocative.”