Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Documentary
The Netherlands is home to Amsterdam, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and a top international destination for tourists. Known for its liberal practices, politics and culture, the Netherlands is also home to another, darker, controversial tradition that has virtually escaped international attention for the past century – Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Piet is a blackface tradition associated with the celebration of Sinterklaas, the patron saint of children. According to Dutch folklore, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands via steamship every late November. The patron saint is assisted by Zwarte Piet, which literally translates to “Black Peter.” Every holiday season, hundreds of white Dutch citizens dress up as Sinterklaas’ helpers by blackening their faces, reddening their lips donning an afro wig, and wearing bright, colorful costumes with gold “creole” earrings. Scores of people living in the Netherlands, particularly those of African descent, are raising awareness about minstrel history, racist imagery and stereotypes associated with and promoted by the Zwarte Piet tradition. There are others, who have celebrated the tradition for many generations, who see nothing wrong with the celebration and think that protestors are blowing things out of proportion. BLACK PETE, ZWARTE PIET explores the controversial tradition of blackface in the Netherlands associated with Sinterklaas by following citizens who are both fighting against and upholding the tradition. Are the Dutch racist or are they just having fun?
Photo Credit: Brett Russell
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