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Swedish hip-hop star slams 'racist' cartoon


The Local:

When Swedish newspaper Metro on Tuesday published a comic strip by Norwegian artist Frode Øverli, the paper received a barrage of complaints from readers who perceived the cartoon as racist.

Swedish artist Jason ”Timbuktu” Diakité was among those who reacted angrily toward the image.

”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 in what it feels like to be subjected to racism. I feel deeply offended and very sad,” Diakité wrote in an email to Metro editor Peter Gunne.

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

The cartoon was a play on the the phrase "to ask for someone's hand" and many Metro readers felt that it 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.

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

The paper has therefore chosen to print an apology, saying that it never meant to offend anyone.

”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 and added that the paper has a zero-tolerance policy against racism.

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

Cartoonist 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 of the drawing is 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 Swedish Metro, as well as in Norwegian publications.

According to the artist, cannibals, just as Santa Claus, werewolves and the like, are fantasy figures that he never thought would offend anyone.

”It wasn't and will never 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 that it was over as far as he is concerned.

He also confirmed that Diakité had accepted the apology.

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

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