Rotterdam drops blackface Zwarte Piet makeup for Sinterklaas party

Blackface Zwarte Piet will disappear from Rotterdam's Sinterklaas celebrations. Snic, the organization of the Sinterklaas Parade in the city, discussed the controversial character and how to modernize the children's party with Platform Rutu, which represents various African communities in Rotterdam. They decided to remove any reference to black or other possibly offensive stereotypes, including the word 'Zwarte' from Piet's name, RTV Rijnmond reports.

Piet's figure will change completely: "He will be no longer be represented as dumb, clumsy and with a caricatural accent, but as an efficient person helping Sinterklaas", a spokesperson said to the broadcaster. Piet will no longer wear blackface makeup and earrings, and his frizzy hair and big red lips will also disappear. Piet will become a chimney sweeper Piet. "He crawls in chimneys to get to the shoes and fill them with presents, that's why he's dirty".

Snic and Rutu, concerned about the shock these changes might have on the children and their parents, decided to introduce the changes slowly. That's why during the Sinterklaas Parade on November 18th this year, half of the Pieten will be chimney sweepers. Next year they will be 75 percent and in 2019 at least 90 percent. 

The vast majority of Dutch municipalities are sticking to blackface Zwarte Piet in their Sinterklaas celebrations this year. Only Amsterdam, The Hague and Meppel will have no blackface characters in their parades. A few municipalities, including Utrecht and Rotterdam, will have a mixture of blackface- and non-blackface Pieten.