SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There will be ‘fully black’ Piets in this year’s official Sinterklaas welcoming parade in Zaanstad after all, public service broadcaster NTR now says.
The news that only ‘sooty Piets’ rather than traditional blackface Piets would accompany Sinterklaas for his ceremonial arrival in Zaanstad on November 17 had caused angry reactions in some circles but now, it seems, the news was a misunderstanding.
The arrival of Sinterklaas is broadcast live on television and marks the start of three weeks of festivities. And the NTR’s role in organising the event, and determining the colour of Piet, is followed closely.
The NTR said on its website earlier this week that ‘the Piets have soot on their faces because they went through the chimneys. The ‘more often a Piet does this, the more soot he has on his face’.
This, the broadcaster now says, was interpreted by many to mean that the traditional black face Piet would be a thing of the past. But a spokesman has since said that Piets who go down the chimney a lot ‘have an awful lot of soot’ on their faces and ‘that means they are very black to totally black’.
The Piets in the procession will be ‘make-up free to completely black, due to the chimney’, the spokesman said. The portrayal of the saint’s helpers by blacked-up white actors has been the focus of protests in recent years by anti-racism activists.
Last year a group of counter-activists blocked the A7 motorway in Friesland to stop anti-racism campaigners reaching Dokkum, the scene of last year’s official arrival ceremony.
In recent years Piet has lost a number of other characteristics associated with racial stereotyping, such as thick curly hair, puffy red lips and large gold earrings. (DutchNews)