Big Zwarte Piet changes in pipeline

Prospective changes to the visual representation of the entry tour of Sinterklaas, most notably to the appearance of Zwarte Piet, may happen as soon as this year. Elsevier reports that the new Pieten may be featured in several places in The Netherlands, though it is unclear what these new character will look like.

The Netherlands Center for Folk Culture and Immaterial Heritage and the National Sint Nicolaas Committee Foundation hope the new efforts will make a positive impact, and that Zwarte Piet does not have to be left behind in his entirety.

Director of the Center for Folk Culture and Immaterial Heritage Ineke Strouken has co-written an essay with Sinterklaas expert Frits Booy, entitled The story of Zwarte Piet. History and meaning, which will be published next week. In the essay, the possible new forms of the character are explained.

The new Piet may not be black, but explicitly soot-colored, making visible the story line that Piet has a sooty face because he comes through the chimney. This argument is already used by some to explain Piet's black face.

Schouten and Booy write that a compromise between the supporters and opposers of Piet's visual representation may be to remove the curly hair and red lips. Pieten with straight hair or different hairstyles other than the afro have been seen in television programs and Sinterklaas movies in the past.

Another possibility to change Piet, but also stay with tradition is to add more variety to Sinterklaas' entourage. Not only Zwarte Piet, but also other figures such as sailors, footmen and soldiers.

Different color Pieten are also an option, not just black but white "knaves". Pieten with colorful hair and clothing.

Removing Pet outright is something that The Netherlands is not ready for yet, as was demonstrated last week when a leaked e-mail between HEMA and a customer revealed that the shop chain may be thinking of taking the character off packaging and out of products. On social media, Piet supporters threatened a boycott.