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Josephine Baker smiles at Zwarte Piet, 1957. Wikipedia

Dutch public refuse to abandon Zwarte Piet

In almost all Sinterklaas parades in the Netherlands, committees have pledged to keep the controversial black-face servant of a white-bearded father figure for Christmas.

Published: October 18, 2018, 9:07 am

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    Zwarte Piet is the assistant of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, and accompanies him when Sinterklaas enters the towns on the first Saturday after 11 November.

    They want to remain faithful to the tradition of Zwarte Piet they sayThis is evidenced by an inventory of the Sint en Pietengilde – a guild to which the participants belong. The guild has previously successfully argued for placing the Sinterklaas tradition on the National Heritage list.

    On the basis of the reports that have been received, the Sint en Pietengilde concluded that most committees do not care about the so-called debate about a “black-face slave” and will continue as they always have with the famous street parade.

    Guild spokesman Marc Giling said that from almost 800 entries across the country, they have received information about the kind of people that participating. “Of all the municipalities and committees that have reported so far, we have been told that a black-face person will be participating,” says Giling.

    He has taken into account that in some places other types of Pieten will be chosen, but the guild is not informed of this. “Committees that want to celebrate the parade with chimney sweepers or other types of characters, probably do not report to us first. Because if that becomes known about Sinterklaas, most people will probably move to another place before the parade. ”

    Traditionally Zwarte Piet is considered to be a Moor from Spain, which explaines his dark skin. But some politically correct parades wanted to replace him with Chimney Sweep Piet, where the only colour added is stripes of soot.

    According to the guild, this debate about class, race, slavery and blackness is mainly conducted in the Randstad, in the main cosmopolitan centre in The Netherlands. Most Dutch people outside the Randstad have shrugged off the discussion about “victimhood”.

    Randstad is a megalopolis in the central-western Netherlands consisting primarily of the four largest Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) and their surrounding areas. Among other things, it contains the world’s busiest seaport of Rotterdam and many left-leaning wealthy voters.

    In March this year, during a meeting of the Dutch Association of Mayors, according to RTL News, sixty mayors present at that meeting were urged to save Sinterklaas.

    The arrival of Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet, has always been broadcast live on television but in the past few years the event has been beset by protests against the blackface Zwarte Piet.

    Last year in the Friesland town of Dokkum pro-Piet supporters blocked a highway to keep protesters out. The enthusiastic support for the parade is another nod in their direction.

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