No blackface makeup at Amsterdam's Sinterklaas party
Sinterklaas will be surrounded by only Chimney Pieten during his arrival in Amsterdam this year. While the organizing committee announced earlier this week that 75 percent of the Pieten will be covered in soot instead of traditional makeup, they announced on Friday that not a single Piet will be wearing the blacface makeup when Sinterklaas arrives on November 13th, ANP reports.
The Amsterdam organizing committee wants to make sure that all children, including non-Western minorities, are able to enjoy the festival, spokesperson Pam Evenhuis said to the news wire. Last year half of the Zwarte Pieten in Amsterdam wore the soot smears of Chimney Piet instead of the traditional blackface makeup.
"Many people don't feel that Zwarte Piet is Sinterklaas' helper, but his slave", Evenhuis said to ANP. "The period of slavery is, to say the least, a stain on Dutch history." In addition to that, Zwarte Piet's characteristics come from the 1920's, the same time as the rise of controversial blackface makeup on wite actors playing African roles.
The characters around Sinterklaas changed continuously throughout history, according to Evenhuis. They moved with the times. For example, until the 70's no female Pieten were allowed.
The Amsterdam committee wants to move along with the changing composition of the Dutch and Amsterdam population. According to Evenhuis, last year 45 percent of Amsterdammers were of non-Western minorities. "We accommodate more than 180 nationalities in our city" Evenhuis said. "If we want all children to celebrate the festival without bad feelings, we will have to examine how we are going to shape the implementation of Piet."
Mayor Eberhard van der Laan was informed of this decision. Sinterklaas arrives in Amsterdam on Sunday, November 13th - a day after the national arrival in Maassluis.
RTL also announced that there will be no more blackface Zwarte Pieten on the broadcaster's channels anymore.
NTR, producer of kids' show Sinterklaasjournaal, hasn't made any statements about how Piet will look on the sow, which starts on November 9th. This year Erik van Muiswinkel, Jochem Myjer and Dolores Leeuwin - old favorites on the Sinterklaasjournaal - all resigned because they can not agree with how the program is handling Zwarte Piet.