Most Dutch cities, towns to keep blackface makeup on Zwarte Piet
The Sinterklaas arrival committees in the vast majority of Dutch towns and cities decided to keep their Zwarte Pieten traditional with blackface makeup, according to a survey by NOS and regional broadcasters. Only two of the 223 surveyed committees will have no blackface makeup at Sinterklaas' arrival - Amsterdam and Heemstede.
So far the Children's Ombudsman, the College for Human Rights and a committee from the United Nations all called for Zwarte Piet's appearance to change. Doing so will make the Sinterklaas festival enjoyable for all children. And all three believe that Zwarte Piet in his traditional appearance contribute to bullying, exclusion and discrimination.
The majority of the arrival committees decided to ignore these arguments. In 186 towns and cities, Zwarte Piet will still have his traditional appearance. Eleven will have blackface Zwarte Pieten, but also Pieten of different colours or covered in soot marks. 26 places are still considereing what Piet will look like. Most of them are waiting to see what the Sinterklaasjournaal, which starts on Wednesday, will do.
A number of committees noted that Zwarte Piet already looks much different than 10 years ago. Many committees no longer dress their Pieten in frizzy hair, red lips and golden earrings.
According to NOS, some committees were clearly irritated by the Zwarte Piet debate and did not want to discuss it. Hulst in Zeeland is so over the discussion that they decided to make their own Sinterklaasjournaal, with all blackface Zwarte Pieten. Others struggle with practical problems - for example the committee in Deventer worry that many people don't want to participate in the Sinterklaas arrival festival any more because they are familiar faces in town and do not want to be recognized as either pro- or anti-Zwarte Piet.
RTL already announced that the broadcaster is replacing the traditional blackface Zwarte Pieten with so-called Chimney Pieten - with soot marks on their faces from going up and down chimneys. And from now on Sinterklaas' helpers on RTL channels will only be called Piet. What NTR will do will likely only become clear on Wednesday, when the Sinterklaasjournaal starts.
Amsterdam already announced that there will be no blackface Zwarte Pieten in the city. Heemstede is also following suit. The municipality decided to change Piet's appearance, according to NOS. This was not because of the Zwarte Piet discussion in the city, but the municipality wants to follow the Children's Ombudsman's guidelines. In Heemstede the Pieten will be red and yellow - the colors of the municipality .