For Immediate Release
I strongly condemn the events that occurred at the recent exhibition held in Sweden on World Art Day, April 15, 2012 at the gallery of the Moderna Museet and I call for the resignation of Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, Swedish minister of culture.
Ms. Liljeroth participated in what was purported to be an art installation meant to highlight the issue of female circumcision/genital mutilation. This event was outrageous, grotesque, disrespectful and racist. A cake with a glossy black icing on the outside and a red sponge cake inside, was shaped as a life-size female naked torso. Makode Aj Linde, the artist who created the installation, was in stereotypic minstrel black face juxtaposed to the torso cake. As Ms. Liljeroth was called to cut the cake, she cut a slice of cake from the section that was the vaginal area. The artist screamed as the area of the cake representing the genitals was cut by the minister of culture. Many of those in attendance participated in cutting of the black cake. As shown in the video, all of those in attendance, laughed heartily at this dramatization of female circumcision/genital mutilation, while the artist, as the screaming head, yelled loudly as each slice of cake was cut.
This display was neither funny nor entertaining, as viewed in the context and the history of abuse and dehumanization of black women. It is horrific. Black people were treated with the utmost irreverence because of the prejudice, ignorance and inhumanity of people in power, who sought to justify their mistreatment of Blacks, based on their color. The picture symbolizes a longstanding misbelief of black inferiority and subordination, to the point that black women were objects of sexual pleasure to be used at the whim and fancy of others. No caring, compassionate person could sit and watch such a minstrel show play out before their eyes without the loudest cries of denouncement. It is unacceptable to think that the climate that was created around this cake event and the artist's participation in such a manner, specifically was designed to highlight the violence surrounding the issue of female circumcision and genital mutilation. For victims of sexual abuse and genital mutilation this "cake party" did not give voice to their terror but rather their cries fell on the warped minds and mocking voices of those in attendance.
Racist caricatures such as these are contrary to the efforts of those who work to eliminate racism. The horror is only intensified by the fact that the high-ranking government official Minister Liljeroth willingly took part in this ceremony, smiling broadly and laughing happily while ignoring such blatant manifestations of racism. There are even tinges of perpetuating the stereotype of cannibalism, by the act of Minister Lilojeroth feeding the very cake to the "victim" whose "cake body" is being mutilated. This is in no way a laughing matter. What does this say about the Swedish government? Should it allow an individual to represent them who willingly smiles and engages in racist activities?
We cannot allow these scenarios of impiety that only deepen the crime of victimization. The president and executive staff of Moderna Museet and the Swedish government should apologize for allowing the artist to display such racist and grave misrepresentation of black women.
I join the National Afro-Swedish Association, which calls for the resignation of Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. This action needs to be taken immediately to show the world that Sweden will not stand for such racist behavior, trying to hide under the veil of art. This presentation rises to a level of horror that equals that of the instances during an era of inhumanity when Black women actually were the subjects of unimaginable medical procedures and experiments, conducted without their consent and with full knowledge that the outcomes would lead to their deaths.
Sweden needs to show in a very direct manner its abhorrence for this atrocity.