Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 07:52
Zwarte Piet undergoes makeover
In an attempt to quell accusations of racist imagery, the Netherlands Center for Folk Culture and Immaterial Heritage (VIE) have come with a new suggested look for Zwarte Piet. The reimagined character is still black, but no longer has curly hair, or full red lips. The character's outfit has been updated, and Piet will also no longer wear his signature golden hoop earrings. The discussion about Zwarte Piet has become a fervent national debate in recent years. Making the situation more difficult has been the frequent hurling of racial epithets at anyone who suggested changes to the character. Opponents argue that Piet is a racist tradition that should be abolished, while supporters see it as a cultural institution, important to the country's heritage. The look was unveiled on the television program Knevel & Van den Brink by VIE director Ineke Strouken. After speaking with various people and asking their opinion as part of their research, VIE began development of a new costume concept for Piet. The organization focused their research on keeping what they see as positive aspects of Piet and de-emphasizing any racist undertones. The person showing off the costume on stage was a white man in blackface makeup. VIE's research suggests that if the Netherlands wants an end to the "constant debate" surrounding the Zwarte Piet issue, Zwarte Piet himself will have to be completely reconsidered. Strouken says that Zwarte Piet should have an equal relationship with Sinterklaas, and not serve him out of subservience and inferior intellect.