The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

The Netherlands, an outsider's view.



In November, anti-Zwarte Piet group “Kick Out Zwarte Piet’ plan demonstrations in 12 Dutch cities including Hoorn, Alkmaar, Heerhugowaard, Leeuwarden, Eindhoven, Groningen, The Hague, Den Bosch, Dordrecht, Almere, Nijmegen, and Willemstad (Curacao).

In opposition, pro-Zwarte Piet groups demonstrated today in Apeldoorn and Deventer demonstrating for the Sinterklaas’s helper to remain in blackface stating that the character should “just stay black”. The Deventer demonstration was prompted by the municipality stating that at least 1/3 of the local Sinterklaas celebration Pieten should be “Chimney Pieten” – a soot-covered version of the character. The municipality, in fact, threatened not to subsidize the event should the quota not be met although it withdrew the consideration following a backlash.

In Apeldoorn, where Sinterklaas makes his official arrival on 16 November, the pro-Zwarte Piet hung a banner from the city hall stating ’95 percent want Zwarte Piet’. It was quickly taken down, but the municipality still stands by their decision to only feature Chimney Pieten at the event and its broadcast.

The debate around Zwarte Piet has, of course, raged in recent years with anti groups claiming the character is racially insensitive, as well as being a stereotype and a symbol of colonialism. Pro groups, on the other hand, claim a consistency of tradition dating back some 100 years.






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