‘zwarte piet’ black face tradition in the netherlands: time to stop the madness?

February 12, 2013
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‘Zwarte Piet’ basically amounts to a Black Face tradition in the Netherlands. Is it time to stop the madness?
Filmmaker Shantrelle P. Lewis wants to document this and ask questions in a documentary. The project’s Kickstarter page explains:
“According to folklore, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands via steamship every November, rides into town on his horse, and is assisted by his helper Zwarte Piet, which literally translates to “Black Peter.”
Every holiday season, hundreds of Dutch citizens dress up as Sinterklaas’ helpers by blackening their faces, reddening their lips, donning afro wigs, and wearing bright, colorful costumes with gold “creole” earrings.
Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Documentary explores both sides of the tradition – and everything in between. Who seeks to change the tradition? Who seeks to maintain it? And why? The film features interviews of Dutch citizens, historians, scholars, activists, artists, and members of the general community. The film also explores the representation of Black people and the Black body in Dutch popular culture and how these images affect the lives of people of African descent on a day-to-day basis.”
Being that the Netherlands largely participated in the Transatlantic slave trade and that many people in the Netherlands are offended by this tradition, some think it’s time to stop the madness.