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Sweden's art minister takes heat over 'racist' cake

From Nima Elbagir, CNN
April 18, 2012 -- Updated 2039 GMT (0439 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sweden's culture minister cut a cake shaped like an African woman at a weekend exhibit
  • A group representing African Swedes has called for her resignation
  • The minister says the cake was designed as a statement against racism

(CNN) -- Sweden's culture minister was feeling the heat Wednesday after a weekend art exhibit in which she cut up a cake baked into the shape of a cartoonishly stereotyped African woman.

A group representing Swedes of African descent has called for Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth to resign over that it called a racist caricature. But Liljeroth defended her participation, saying the cake was designed to "challenge the traditional image of racism."

"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," Liljeroth said in a statement issued by her office. "The artistic intent was the exact opposite."

The artist who designed the cake, Makode Linde, is of African descent himself and said the piece was aimed at condemning the practice of female genital mutilation. Pictures from the Sunday exhibition showed Liljeroth slicing into the cake from the "genitals" and feeding it to Linde, who told CNN he made himself the head of the figure and screamed in pain when it was cut.

"I didn't intend for anyone to feel singled out or embarrassed," he said. "But we're talking about female genital mutilation -- is there any comfortable or cozy way to talk about it?"

Liljeroth was scheduled to meet with representatives of the National Association for Afro-Swedes, which has demanded she should step down, on Wednesday evening. The group said it hoped to ensure "that similar events don't happen again."

"To participate at a racist manifestation portrayed as art is definitely crossing the line," Kitimbwa Sabuni, the group's spokesman, said in a written statement. He said the minister's appearance shows she either supported what the group called a racist event "or that she has an extremely bad sense of questions of racism."

"No matter what, the Afro-Swedes no longer have confidence for her as culture minister and demand that she assumes her responsibility and resigns," Sabuni said.

The event took place at Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art, which was marking World Art Day on Sunday. The museum was closed by a bomb threat Tuesday afternoon, but reopened Wednesday after no explosives were found, spokeswoman Kristin Ek said.

CNN's Per Nyberg contributed to this report.

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