Commentary: Swedish Blackface Cake Disgusts on Many Levels

Sweden’s culture minister and several guests found it entertaining to discuss female genital mutilation while dining on the cake carcass of a caricatured African woman. 

Posted: 04/17/2012 01:46 PM EDT

Brace yourselves. The latest racist stunt out of Sweden may actually make you physically sick.

 

Photos and video recently surfaced of Sweden’s culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth gleefully dining on a cake decorated to look like a blackface caricature of an African woman, replete with blood-red insides and a live actor posing as the head of the creation; donning an afro and a painted face while the rest of his body was hidden beneath the table.

 

Unfortunately, that’s not the worst part.

 

The cake was commissioned as a part of a World Art Day celebration and was meant to highlight the terror of female genital mutilation (FGM). Lilijeroth had the disturbing honor of making the first incision and did so on the cake’s “clitoris.” As each guest cut a slice of the cake, the actor in blackface screeched and moaned with pain.

 

As a human, it’s difficult to imagine how I could ever enjoy pretending to feast off of the body of another human being — especially when the act is literally a sweet metaphor for torture. As a woman, I can’t understand how Lilijeroth could make light of a practice that has terrorized and permanently mutilated millions of women and maintains the idea that our bodies and sexuality are things that need to be controlled. And as a Black person, I am once again appalled at the ease with which so many around the world view us as caricatures; bestial, devoid of humanity and in need of rescue by a lot so civilized, they pretend to dine on human flesh.

 

FGM has been condemned by many Western nations and African communities where certain cultures continue to support the practice. The procedure involves the removal of the external genitalia (often including the clitoris) of girls and young women generally before puberty, with some as young as seven years old. Extreme health risks are associated with the practice, which is often performed in unsanitary conditions and can make childbirth difficult or fatal. For many, the procedure is done as a part of a girl's initiation into womanhood and some believe that removing a girl's clitoris will ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity after. 

 

In sum, the cake itself is not the problem. I understand that the artist created it to make a profound statement about the specter of FGM. However, I am certain that the guests at the event didn’t realize that, by enjoying what should have been observed in a somber and reflective manner as a political statement, they succinctly proved the artist’s point better than his edible creation ever could have.

 

According to English-language Swedish news site The Local, the cake’s creator, artist Makode Aj Linde (who is Black), actually played the part of the screaming head on the cake and says Lilijeroth playfully whispered in his ear the inscription he placed next to the cake which read, "…Your life will be better after this," a nod to cultural beliefs that a woman will remain chaste if "freed" from the lusty pull of her clitoris.

 

Unfortunately, however, this spectacle proves that it will, in fact, be a very long time before life gets better for women suffering from all forms of sexual domination and abuse, but especially for the Black women in Africa and around the world who must face a world who, with knives drawn, is literally prepared to delight in their suffering.

 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

 

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