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Minister apologizes over 'racist' cake cutting

19 Apr 2012, 07:16

Published: 19 Apr 2012 07:16 GMT+02:00

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On Wednesday Sweden's culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth apologized for her participation in a ceremony involving a cake depicting a nude African woman that sparked cries of racism.

The controversial cake was prepared to mark the 75th anniversary of the National Organisation of Swedish artists, (Konstnärernas Riksorganisation, KRO) attended by Adelsohn Liljeroth.

The cake was designed by Makode Linde, a black artist known in Sweden for provocative work that aims to challenge racial stereotypes.

But cutting the cake, some said, conjured up images of female genital mutilation, a practice widely considered barbaric which is still practiced by some African communities, increasingly in secret.

"In our view, this simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden," Kitimbwa Sabuni, spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund) told The Local on Tuesday.

"This was a racist spectacle."

Adelsohn Liljeroth attended the April 15 event and participated in the cake cutting ceremony, prompting outcry from the association, which called it, "an act in bad taste and racist."

"I am sincerely sorry if anyone has misinterpreted my participation," the

minister said in a statement.

"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."

Adelsohn Liljeroth met with the Afro-Swedish Association on Wednesday, but the group stands by their calls for her to resign, the group's Zakaria Zouhir told the TT news agency.

Zouhir added that his group was less concerned about the the artwork itself, but remained angered by the minister's actions.

"Art is art and that is something for the artists themselves to discuss," he said.

"It's more about how the minister behaved in the situation surrounding the artwork."

Story continues below…

According to Zouhir, the minster should have know what she was getting herself into when she attended the event because she has "people who check up on events before she arrives".

The embattled minister noted that the piece was "provocative" but said the imagery had been misunderstood.

"The actual intent of the piece...is to challenge the traditional image of racism, abuse and oppression through provocation," her statement said.

TT/AFP/The Local

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Your comments about this article

07:47 April 19, 2012 by 3000
"I am sorry for your misunderstanding..."
07:49 April 19, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Minister, there is considerable applause, and not only baseless cries of racism. There is no need to resign.
07:53 April 19, 2012 by AmSwedish
Adelsohn was duped. Doesn't she realize that? She proved exactly what the artist wanted to show: that racism is there, under the surface. Would she have cut into the vagina of a white cake with a blond, blue-eyed head?
07:56 April 19, 2012 by skogsbo
I am disappointed she feels the need to apologise. It's weak and in the end the event was great PR for FGM.
08:06 April 19, 2012 by johan rebel
Apologize for what???

Typical Swedish cowardice. As soon as a few loudmouths who have nothing better to do start hollering "racism", the craven minister gets down on her knees and begs for forgiveness.
08:13 April 19, 2012 by rise
This makes me sick!
08:21 April 19, 2012 by RobinHood
The Local's headline is misleading (again). The minister has not apologised.

"I am sincerely sorry if anyone has misinterpreted my participation,"

Makode Aj Linde and Adelsohn Liljeroth have significantly raised people's awareness of female genital mutilation of children in Africa, on a national and even international scale. Hundreds of readers here at the Local now know much more about it, and many many posters have spoken against it. Incredibly, some posters have defended FGM as some sort of expression of cultural independance. Their perverse and digraceful support has been noted and they are demeaned by it. There is simply no excuse for cutting off the genitals of small children with a razorblade; none whatsover.

Here in Sweden this new greater awareness of FGM will result in teachers and social workers paying much more attention to how young girls of African parentage are parented. Children at risk from their parents will be better protected, and parents who have, or try to, ruin their children's lives by cutting their genitals, prosecuted.

Thank you Makode Aj Linde and Adelsohn Liljeroth; thousands more Swedish girls will now reach maturity with their genitals intact, and all because of a cake that has now become one of the best and most useful pieces of art produced in Sweden for decades. What will Makode bake next?
08:31 April 19, 2012 by rise

"The minister has not apologised."

I definitely hope you're right about that.
09:03 April 19, 2012 by Iraniboy
I watched the video. It is sick! It is just an extremely untalented way of sending a message with provocation. However it is not racism at all. The motive behind it was no way racist I think.
09:04 April 19, 2012 by engagebrain
Female genital mutilation is black on black violence of the most obscene sort and something that cannot be blamed on any form of European colonialism.

For black men to cry racism about an event that highlights the suffering that parts of their community impose on black women serves to divert attention from the real obscenity. Their problem is that this portrays parts a black society as perpetrators instead of their preferred role as victims.

Far better to abuse a cake than show a real black woman held down by her relatives and mutilated without anaesthetic in a way that affects the rest of her life- showing that would really be obscence, except it is the reality.
09:24 April 19, 2012 by Kevin Harris
Interesting that so many posters, who usually can't agree on the color of an orange, have united against FGM and written so passionately and elegantly. This is one of the best Local forums ever.

As for those who can't get past the fact the cake (baked by a black man) seems to them to be racist, and apparently think FGM is a good thing. Well, shame on them.
09:48 April 19, 2012 by Cephalectomy
for people asking why should she apologize:

cutting a black woman and laughing, it is not helping fight the habit, it is showing it on the other hand cool and fun to do imo
10:09 April 19, 2012 by procrustes
Sorry, but she HAS TO GO!! OUT WITH HER! This situation is a no-brainer.

I cannot imagine how someone in a senior position can be this insensitive. Either she has the sensibilities of a clod or she's lying through her teeth about regrets; i.e., it's not the act she regrets, it's being publicly called out for those acts. Either way she has no business in any responsible position.

This wasn't just a lapse in judgment. Her jolly cake-cutting shows her willingness to participate in racist or at the very least vulgar activity when the crowd does--she's supposed to be a leader, she's supposed to have the intellectual where-with-all to recognize cultural blasphemy and demand its remedy.

In her defense, I am constantly amazed at the exceedingly vulgar taste of Swedish TV advertising with respect to gender, age, race and appropriate behavior. Maybe she's just being a Swede.
10:26 April 19, 2012 by rami_20
@Kevin Harris

Actually few have commented on FGM while most have become entangled in the race debate. The artist has not managed to highlight FGM (if that was his intention) but instead, all over the world, the discussions are about race and racism. The fact that the cake was baked by a black man doesnt make it less racist. As if a single black person represent the thoughts and views of a entire race.

All I see from this is a "black-face" being cut up by rich white people who seemingly enjoy and are laughing at the spectacle of hearing the screams with each cut. Was that meant to be humorous or was it meant to highlight the very barbaric issue of FGM. So even if the artist is black, does that mean its okay to participate in such a violent spectacle? What would the response have been if the artist were white?
10:56 April 19, 2012 by Emfa
Can anybody inform me please: Where does Kitimbwa and his organization stand when it comes to genital mutilation on black children? Any previous statement about the practice?

Crying racism at every thing does not help victims of real racism. I salute the creativity of this artist.
11:01 April 19, 2012 by engagebrain
People see what they want to see.

The cutting should have imitated life and been by a member of the black community with an entirely black audience egging them on accompanied by a black girl screaming.
11:01 April 19, 2012 by gpafledthis
Being #16 makes me feel as if I'm caught in "outhouse" with all the s--t above me and more coming !!
11:12 April 19, 2012 by Kevin Harris

I quite understand that all you see is a black face being cut up by white people.

Like the minister, I am sincerely sorry you have misinterpreted the cake and its meaning. I very much hope that as you develop sufficiently as a person, you will one day see the cake how the artist meant you to see it, and not in the one- dimensional, superficial, immature way you see it now.

As you say, the artists disgust with FGM does not represent the views of an entire race. The statistics show that hundreds of millions of people disagree with him, and show that disagreement by mutilating their children with gusto. No wonder he is so unpopular with you and his fellow Africans.
11:41 April 19, 2012 by indeedmagnifier
How stupid can be a minister who could not realize at the first place that her participation and then her stupid join to the ceremony and cake cutting and laughing.

If she was intelligent, she should immediately leave the ceremony, not participating, cutting cake and enjoying and laughing.

Stupid people do stupid things and they are happy, because it is then too easy to make excuse and apologizes over their stupid behaviors

11:43 April 19, 2012 by skogsbo
stupid people, do stupid things, like rant about a cake, when the real issue is FGM?
11:47 April 19, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
"I am sincerely sorry if anyone has misinterpreted my participation," is NOT an apology as in: 'I was wrong - I'm sorry'

The Swedish Culture minister never had anything to apologize for, or resign over - the fact that she is sorry for the hurt feelings of some people shows considerable magnanimity on her part
12:03 April 19, 2012 by J Jack
It's all just a misunderstanding.
12:36 April 19, 2012 by Pakistani_Student
I think she is not capable enough to understand the situation and made a disgusting spectacle with that cake cutting event which has hurt many peoples feelings. So its good if she resigns.
12:49 April 19, 2012 by Max Reaver
The minister is stupid, yes. If i were her I'd do my homework, talk with the artist and make sure there are no unwanted surprises. I don't know if she knew he'd scream with each cut (anybody who knows?), but if I were given that knife in my hand, I'd first solemnly explain to the audience what it is about, and try to look uncomfortable with each scream, instead of laughing with the audience, and thereby sending the wrong message. If done properly, any subsequent accusation of racism would not stand solid.

Did she get the job done? Somehow, yes. Did she do a good job? No, it was the worst way possible. Does she deserve to resign? To deem from her way of conduct in this particular incident, I believe the answer is yes. Her stupidity (and possible passive racist mentality) speaks the fact. If she can't achieve her goal without inciting a worldwide outrage, then we'd better find someone who gets things done smoothly.
12:56 April 19, 2012 by libertarianism
Well said #10.

Additionally, the Afro-Swedish Association (afrosvenskarna) homepage now has a letter to Reinfeldt from a New York based group which state that Minister Liljeroth is supposed to educate the public but instead she has shown that Sweden is unabsolved for taxes it collected during the slave-trade era, as well as the profits that were earned for the sale of chains.

The letter furthermore states that it's the minister's work "to use cultural diplomacy to mitigate conflict in societies." I recommend that Kabuni does the same, while also considering how the association he represents exhibits segregationism.
12:56 April 19, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
Don't see why the minister or the artist (a black man, by the way) should have to apologize for this! It is bringing the horrible practice of FGM to the forefront.
13:08 April 19, 2012 by prince T
Common sense prevailed at last. I dont blame the ignorant people that felt otherwise on this forum. I will advise them to go to US, Uk, Canada to do a tenth of what they do here and let me know the result. We are in the 21st century and we should know what respect means. Ignorance is killing us in Sweden and we are loding brains in the process. Well done Minister.
14:04 April 19, 2012 by bloor west
I think AmSweden might be on to something.
02:55 April 20, 2012 by phil23456
It's just a cake, who cares. Most black people I know care less about racism and political correctness than the stupid do gooders that scream racism. I think it's offensive for whites to cry racism on behalf of blacks. Can't people just live without all this PC rubbish? How is this big news? It's just a cake.
14:44 April 20, 2012 by respect4ALL
@prince i think u aint sure what u talkin abt!! in U.K,U.S AND CANADA u wont find incidents like thiz. there racisim is crime while here is part of our daily programmes. 21st century yes but wat does that mean? we respect each other..how? we dont abuse people becos of their colours like it was during colonial era. i think the prime minister have to act if thz Racist minister resist to continue being in that office otherwise sweden will be branded racisist country. sh****** that minister
19:35 April 20, 2012 by The godmother
She doesnt need to resign. I guess she had a good intention but did not pass the message across in the right way.

Swedes are not just creative. Each time I watch an advert on Swedish TV, I cant help but laugh. 95% of adverts on Swedish TV fail to send the intended message.

I just think that same thing in happened in this case.

There is no way a minister will intentional want to hurt Africans, knowing fully well that racist acts and comments are sensitive issues.

I beg fellow Africans to see it from an objective point of view.
20:57 April 20, 2012 by Welsh Pudding
When are we going to stop overeacting to these allegations of racism from oversensitive, agressive , intolerent unintegrated minorities who are sucking the culture out of Western countries.

If you don't want to integrate and respect diversity then get back on the banana boat and go back to the dusty hell hole you came from and stop trying to ruin european cultural diversity and freedom of expression and speech !

Millions died for what we have and we are slowly just letting it slip away for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing in order to appease the very kind of people who seek to take our culture away from us.... wake up everybody , before its too late !
21:09 April 23, 2012 by waris
We need to repect others and hope same in return, I think this was not creative at all and what was the idea behind it??
10:06 April 30, 2012 by Geoff52
Honestly, it's right to have political correctness, but this is not racism, any more than the person who designed the cake, known for her provocative actions to promote discussion.

I am a supporter of those who want respect for all members of society, but we have to stop treading on eggshells. The minister has not really done anything wrong - slightly ill-advised, but not wrong. It is a cake, not a real human being.
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