Sinterklaas officially arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday, accompanied by his controversial helper, Zwarte Piet. Though the assistants are mythologized as having dark smudges caused by soot, the character more closely resembles minstrels in blackface with nappy-haired wigs, large hoop earrings, big red lips and a buffoonish demeanour.
Albert Heijn grocery stores will continue to use the blackface character Zwarte Piet as part of their winter holiday promotions around the Sinterklaas holiday. “We are sincerely bothered that cultural practices around the beloved Sinterklaas parties may be offensive,” parent company Ahold said in a statement.
Supermarket chain Albert Heijn has mostly dropped the black-faced version of Zwarte Piet from it’s stores and product packaging, the company’s parent said Wednesday. Though the character might pop up on the boxes of candies and cookies, the store’s parent company, Ahold, says it will not be used inside or outside stores.
A previously unknown group of activists has claimed responsibility for the Youtube film that shows Zwarte Piet caps on the heads of the human figures in the slavery monument in Amsterdam. The prank has reheated and sprawled the ongoing heated debate about the black-face tradition in The Netherlands.