Swedish hip-hop star slams Norwegian artist over ‘racist’ pic

Swedish hip-hop star Timbuktu labelled as "ignorant" and "offensive" a cartoon by Norwegian artist Frode Øverli that prompted a barrage of complaints from newspaper readers who perceived the cartoon to be racist.

Swedish hip-hop star slams Norwegian artist over 'racist' pic
Photo: Anders Wiklund/Scanpix, Twitter

Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité, one of Sweden’s most popular celebrities, reacted angrily to the cartoon published on Tuesday by Swedish newspaper Metro.

“Frode Øverli's comic strip…was the most insensitive and degrading thing I have ever read in your newspaper. It is a crystal clear case of ignorance and lack of insight into what it feels like to be subjected to racism. I feel deeply offended and very sad,” Diakité wrote in an email to Metro editor Per Gunne.

The comic strip features a cannibal chief, his daughter and a prospective suitor.

In a play on the phrase "to ask for someone's hand", the suitor mistakenly asks for the woman’s “thigh” in a cartoon many readers felt was based on racial stereotypes.

”After all these years of human knowledge it seems you remain in the era of steam engines, racial biology and genocide. You should be ashamed of yourself for not knowing better,” Diakité wrote.

And it wasn't just Diakité who objected to the controversial strip. According to Metro, some 60 readers contacted the paper saying they felt the image was racist.

In response, the paper elected to publish an apology.

”Is it OK to make fun of cannibals? Yes, I think so. Is it OK to joke in a way that can be seen as racist? Absolutely not,” Gunne wrote in Metro, adding that the paper has a zero-tolerance policy towards racism.

”With 1.6 million readers, there is always going to be someone who is offended, but this was too many,” Gunne told newspaper Dagbladet.

Artist Øverli is also devastated that the strip has offended readers. He said in a statement that he is crushed by the whole incident as he strongly opposes all forms of racism.

”My comics are a play on clichés and stereotypes from the old days – the culture that gave birth to cartoons – and the exaggerated details in the drawing are a parody of the stereotypes of the time,” Øverli said.

Øverli is an award-winning cartoonist, considered one of the most successful in Scandinavia. His comic strips appear in a number of Norwegian publications as well as the Swedish version of Metro.

According to the artist, cannibals are fantasy figures, akin to Santa Claus or werewolves, and he never thought they would offend anyone.

”It wasn't and never will be, my intention, But seeing as this has been perceived as racist, I naturally offer my utmost apologies,” he wrote.

When The Local reached Metro's Per Gunne, he said that the matter had been settled and was over as far as he was concerned.

He also confirmed that Diakité had accepted the apology.

“Thank you Per Gunne and Frode Øverli for your respectful letters, very big of you!,” Diakité posted on Twitter.

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Memorial of Norwegian teen killed in 2001 racist attack vandalised

A memorial to a teenage boy murdered in a racist attack was on Tuesday vandalised with the message 'Brevik was right', two days before the tenth anniversary of the July 22nd terror attacks in Norway.

Memorial of Norwegian teen killed in 2001 racist attack vandalised
Police tape. Photo by Søren Storm Hansen/Flickr

Police in Oslo have launched an investigation after the memorial to Benjamin Hermansen, who was murdered by three members of the neo-Nazi group The Boot Boys in a racially motivated attack in 2001, was found to have been vandalised. 

The statue of Hermansen, who was 15 when he was killed, was vandalised with the message “Brevik was right”, a reference to the July 22nd terror attacks carried out by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik in 2011. 

The vandalism was discovered by Johannes Dvorak Lagos in Holmlia, Oslo, while on a walk near his home at midday Tuesday. 

Lagos posted a picture of the vandalism to Twitter, describing it as “reprehensible”. 

The graffiti was discovered two days before the tenth anniversary of the July 22nd terror attacks, in which 77 people were killed. 

Brevik carried out two separate attacks on July 22nd, a bomb in Oslo aimed at killing then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and a mass shooting at the AUF youth camp on Utøya island. 

Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Labour Leader Jonas Gahr Støre have both condemned the incident. 

“It is absolutely awful to see that the Benjamin Hermansen memorial at Homlia has been vandalised just before July 22nd. It makes me sad and furious, and this shows how important it is that we stand up to racism and hate speech every single day,” Solberg said in a tweet

“Benjamin’s memorial has been vandalised with references to the July 22nd terrorist. On the same day as the Eid celebrations begin. It’s reprehensible, and it shows that dangerous attitudes still circulate among us. The police have to take this seriously, and together we have to speak out and oppose this type of behaviour,” Labour Leader Støre wrote on Twitter

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime in addition to vandalism, police said. 

“The Oslo Police district is taking the case very seriously, and an investigation has been established. The investigation will also include the penal provisions for hate crime,” law enforcement said in a statement. 

Raymond Johansen, Oslo’s executive mayor, said that right-wing extremism needs to be addressed. 

“The person or persons who have done this have the same mindset as the neo-Nazis who killed Benjamin and the attitudes behind July 22nd. This shows that there is a need to discuss these attitudes,” Johansen told newspaper VG

The graffiti was removed by 1:30 pm on Tuesday.