Zaanstad Sinterklaas org. withdraws over Chimney Pieten; some blackface at arrival after all

Sinterklaas_zwarte_piet Michell Zappa Wikimedia commons

The Zaanstad Sinterklaas committee, the largest in the Zaanstreek, will not participate in the national Sinterklaas arrival in Zaandijk on November 17th. A statement by broadcaster NTR, the organizer of the national arrival, led the committee to the conclusion that no blackface Zwarte Pieten will be allowed to participate in the arrival for the first time. But according to a spokesperson for NTR, this is not the case at all.

"We are already quite adjusted", Rene de Reus of the Sinterklaas Committee Zaanstad said to NH Nieuws. "We only supply brown Pieten. No Chimney Pieten, because we distance ourselves from that." De Reus is worried that too many children will recognize their uncle or neighbor if they participate in the arrival with only soot on their faces. "It is the end of a Pieten career if you are recognized."

"We have to stop with the whole Piet discussion", De Reus said to AD. "I have a blue Piet suit, soon the NTR also wants blue tights and shoes and in a year or two they will start with blue wigs. That means we are going to celebrate a second carnival."

The other eight Sinterklaas committees in the Zaanstreek will still participate in the national arrival. They deliver a total of more than 150 Pieten, according to broadcaster NOS. 

That no blackface Zwarte Pieten will be allowed at the national arrival, is a misinterpretation of the statement, according to an NTR spokesperson. "As they go through the chimney more often, they become blacker", the spokesperson said to newspaper AD. "There are also some that are completely black." In the statement NTR said that all the Pieten get black on their face by going through chimneys. That means that all Pieten are Chimney Pieten, even those who are completely black, the spokesperson explained.

"I understand the confusion", the spokesperson said to the newspaper. "We try to take a step every year to gradually follow the change that is in society. Every year a little less black. That has been the case for years." 

The municipality of Zaanstad announced that the Sinterklaas committees are free to decide what color Pieten they will provide, NOS reports. The municipality will also not put a quota on how many Pieten of various colors there must be. 

Sinterklaas will make his national arrival in Zaandijk on November 17th. The Sinterklaas Committee Zaanstad will hold its own arrival a week later, on November 24th, a few kilometers to the south in Zaandam, according to the broadcaster.