Blackface dropped from national Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet arrival event

Sooty Piet (Picture: Twitter/@Warda_E) chimney pietChimney Piet (Picture: Twitter/@Warda_E)

This year Sinterklaas will only be accompanied by so-called Chimney Pieten at his national arrival in Apeldoorn on November 16th. All of Sinterklaas' helpers will have soot marks on their faces, instead of the traditional blackface makeup, NTR announced on Tuesday, reports.

NTR is responsible for the Sinterklaasjournaal, the kids show that follows Sinterklaas' progress in his annual travels to the Netherlands. The show will also only have Chimney Pieten this year. "The NTR introduced the Chimney Pieten in 2014 and gradually reduced the number of Pieten in completely black makeup", NTR said.

Last year the broadcaster also announced that it would switch to only Chimney Pieten, but when the Sinterklaasjournaal arrived it still featured a mix of Chimney Pieten and traditional blackface Zwarte Pieten. The show did come up with a reason for the Pieten's black faces. "The Pieten have soot on their face because they go through the chimney." The more a Piet goes through the chimney, the more soot is on his or her face.

Sinterklaas will make his national arrival in Apeldoorn on November 16th. This will not happen on the traditional steam boat, because it is too large to pass through the canal. The Sinterklaasjournaal will start on November 11th. Sinterklaas' progress to the Netherlands can then be followed every evening at 6:00 p.m.

Last year there were disturbances at Sinterklaas arrivals in multiple cities in the Netherland, with pro- and anti-Zwarte Piet activists clashing with each other. Fights broke out in Rotterdam, and in Leeuwarden the police had to protect anti-Zwarte Piet protesters from proponents. Dozens of people were arrested across the country.

Afterwards, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the problems were caused by "extremists on both sides" of the Zwarte Piet discussion, but also conceded that the issues were "overwhelmingly" due to "pro-Zwarte Piet demonstrators."