Passport

Susan G. Komen foundation teams up with Uzbek dictator's daughter

Given that it's still reeling from the controversial, and eventually reversed, decision to suspend funding to Planned Parenthood -- fundraising is reportedly down 30 percent for some of its events --  you'd think breast cancer advocacy group Susan G. Komen for the Cure would want to steer clear of potential political controversy. 

Evidently not. As Nathan Hamm notes at Registan, Komen is partnering with Fund Forum, a charity run by Gulnara Karimova, the socialite, part-time pop star daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, to sponsor a series of charity runs in Uzbekistan. In addition to her dad's atrocious and well-publicized human rights record, Gulnara herself has been implicated in a range of illegal business practices, including essentially taking over rival companies at gunpoint. Then there are disturbing reports of widespread forced sterilizations of women in Uzbek hospitals and evidence that's it's being encouraged by the authorities.  

You might expect this sort of thing from the fashion industry, or say, Sting, but Komen should probably know better at this point. 

Update: Apparently Gulnara's other big charity campaign these days is a program dubbed “1,000 weddings, 1,000 circumcisions.” So there's that. 

Update 2: A Susan G. Komen representative has contacted us to clarify that the organization is partnering not with Fund Forum, but with the National Breast Cancer Association of Uzbekistan. The two organizations seem to share both web space and an address in Tashkent.  

Fund Forum itself seems under the impression that it is sponsoring the event. It has declared itself a fundraising partner for the race and is featured its own name as a sponsor on posters along with Komen. A previous edition of the marathon was described GulnaraKarimova.com as "a brainchild of Gulnara Karimova."

Yves Forestier/Getty Images

Passport

What was really going on in that racist Swedish cake photo?

If you spent some time on the Internet yesterday, you've probably seen it already -- the photo of laughing Swedish culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth cutting into a cake designed as a racist caricature of an African woman. Or Jezebel succinctly put it, "Swedish Official Gleefully Cuts Racist Black Lady Cake, Delights Onlookers." More disturbingly, the cake was intended as a statement on female genital mutilation and Liljeroth was asked to whisper "Your life will be better after this!" before cutting into the crotch. The image has provoked outrage in Sweden's black community and calls for Liljeroth's resignation.

As it turns out, that may have been part of the idea. In a guest post at the always-worth-reading Africa Is A Country blog, Swedish music blogger Johan Palme gives some context for the event. Accoring to Palme, Lijeroth is "reviled by large parts of the art world for her culture-sceptic stance and for previously condemning provocative art in what many see as a kind of censorship," making the atmosphere already a bit tense at the celebration of World Art Day she was attending at Stockholm's Moderna Museet:

The cake is wheeled out and uncovered. The crowd stares, tittering nervously. The culture minister is placed at the crotch end, and starts cutting into the cake – when suddenly the head starts screaming in pain. It’s the artist, Makode Linde, whose own painted head is placed as the head of the cake. The crowd’s tittering erupts in nervous laughter; the uncomfortable humour of the situation, the classic Swedish fear of conflict, triggered by the surprise sound and movement. Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth tries to play along as best she can in what she sees as a “bizarre” situation, reciprocating the laughter.

And on the other side of the cake, placed in the narrow space in front of a glass wall, stands one of the minister’s fiercest critics, visual artist and provocateur Marianne Lindberg De Geer, camera at the ready. And she snaps pictures of the whole series of events, as the minister is egged into doing more outrageous things, performing for the crowd.

It’s of course no coincidence. The whole thing was carefully planned, a “mousetrap” as one Swedish artist puts it. And based on how much traction the picture of the event has garnered, it was a very efficient mousetrap indeed.

Who’s Makode Linde, who staged the whole event? He is a visual artist, and as such has continuously asked uncomfortable questions about race, racial stereotyping and his own position as a black man in a condescending elite art world. The golliwog figure is a consistent image in his artwork, being placed on everyday objects, on paintings grinning nervously at the king, gawking in horror from children’s faces, at times undergoing almost formalist destruction. But just as importantly: he’s a club promoter and DJ, one of Sweden’s most successful, who knows exactly how to manipulate crowds and their emotions.

Palme wonders if the picture of Liljeroth and crowd's nervous reaction was actually the work of art here, rather than cake itself. The full post is well worth reading. You can still question Liljeroth's reaction here, but what's shown in the photo is a bit more complicated than a government minister laughing at a "Racist Black Lady Cake."