“Clitoridectomy Cake” (2012), also known as the nigger cake, the Painful Cake or the Swedish racist cake, is a blackface birthday cake created by black Swedish artist Makode Linde. Its cutting in April 2012 by the Swedish minister of culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, went viral across the Internet.
The cake shows a stereotyped naked black woman. The outside is black chocolate, the inside red velvet cake. The head is played by Linde, the artist himself, in blackface: his head sticks up through the table next to the cake. It looks like something straight out of the Jim Crow Museum or Tintin. He cries out in pain every time someone cuts a piece of cake.
The cake was supposed to draw attention to female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa, which affects 140 million people. The culture minister, in fact, in cutting the first piece of cake, was herself genitally mutilating the cake.
It gets worse.
The culture minister, along with the rest of Stockholm’s assembled cultural elite (all white) smiled and laughed at the whole thing, drinking their wine and eating the cake. As if female genital mutilation or blackface is something to laugh at.
It seems that Linde tried to shock them to make them think. But they were too racist to see black pain, nakedness and dehumanization as something serious. They were too racist to be sickened, shocked or angered by the cake.
It showed that Swedes can be racist too even though they were never deep into the slave trade, even though they never took part in the Berlin Conference that cut up that other birthday cake: Africa itself.
Linde says he was misunderstood because the event was torn out of its context by the Internet.
I believe he was misunderstood because of his use of blackface: its dehumanization of blacks angers many blacks no matter what the “context”, while it amuses many whites. Just like in Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” (2000). So for many blacks it overshadowed his message about FGM while for many whites it undermined it by making its sufferers seem even less human than they already were in their racist eyes.
Linde grew up in Sweden, born of a white Swedish mother and a West African father. Linde always felt like an outsider in his own country. Swedish white racism in his experience is subtle and not talked about.
Much of his art is about racial identity. Blackface is a common theme. He says he wants to out the racism of Swedish society by being over the top and in your face.
That he certainly achieved with his cake.
But that seemed to have been an accident in this case: Linde regards neither himself nor the minister of culture as racist.
Some are calling for the minister to resign. She does not think she did anything wrong.
Yet would she still be laughing and smiling and eating cake and if it were of a naked Jewish Holocaust victim? Or simply of a genitally mutilated naked white woman?