New costumes selected for Zwarte Piet at the Amsterdam Sinterklaas parade have sparked a new critique from activists in the Netherlands. The organizing committee, SSIA, dropped the decades-old Zwarte Piet costume because of its apparent connections to the 17th century child slave trade, replacing it instead with costumes inspired by Spanish nobility in the 16th century.
The roughly 400 Pieten helping Sinterklaas in Amsterdam's celebration this year, will be decked out in brand new, specially designed suits, the foundation responsible for the Amsterdam Sinterklaas celebration, SSIA, announced on Monday night. The new costumes were specifically designed to remove all references to slavery from the controversial character, discovered in examinations of the history behind the Zwarte Piet costume.
As the Netherlands' Sinterklaas celebrations approaches, municipalities are starting to reveal their plans on how they're dealing with controversial character Zwarte Piet. Most of the municipalities are sticking to blackface or dark brown makeup, according to AD's Piet Atlas. Amsterdam and The Hague will have no blackface Piets, with Amsterdam also designing a completely new costume. Utrecht plans mostly Chimney Piets - with faces covered in soot marks - and a few traditional blackface Piets. Rotterdam is keeping its plans secret until the day before the celebration.
Sinterklaas will have a "motley crew of helpers" in the Sinterklaasjournaal this year, NTR announced on Monday. Exactly what these helpers will look like was not announced, and the word 'Piet' was not mentioned once in the press release, NOS reports.
For the first time in years, Sinterklaas' national arrival may happen without any protests for or against controversial character Zwarte Piet. The national arrival is happening in Dokkum on November 18th. By Wednesday night the municipality of Dongeradeel, which covers Dokkum, received no applications for demonstrations, AD reports.
The police had to closed down a street in Nijmegen on Wednesday night after an information evening on Sinterklaas' controversial helper Zwarte Piet devolved into a brawl, Omroep Gelderland reports.
According to the broadcaster, an anarchist group organized the information evening at cafe De Klinker on Van Broeckhuysenstraat. The topic of discussion was how parents can discuss the racism around Zwarte Piet with their children and at schools. One of the speakers was well known anti-Zwarte Piet activist Jerry Afriyie.
The Sinterklaas parade in Gouda this year will include a gluten-free Zwarte Piet. This Piet will hand out gluten-free sweets to children with gluten intolerance. A green flag with the gluten-free logo will be strapped to his back so that he is easy to recognize, AD reports.
NTR's Sinterklaasjournaal wil not feature any multicolored Piet characters this year, media director Willemijn Francissen said to the Telegraaf. Exactly what Sinterklaas' controversial helpers will look like is unclear. All she would say about that is "a kind of fifty shades of gray". So it seems that traditional blackface Zwarte Piet may also not make an appearance.
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb was well within his rights when he banned a demonstration against blackface Zwarte Piet in the city in November last year, the municipality's independent complaints committee ruled, RTV Rijnmond reports.
Well-known anti-Zwarte Piet activist Jerry Afriyie was fined 500 euros by the court in The Hague for resisting arrest during the Sinterklaas arrival in Gouda in 2014. Afriyie plans to go in cassation against the verdict, he confirmed to NU.nl.
A previous ruling acquitted Afriyie of both resisting arrest and assault. But on Tuesday the court in The Hague decided to fine him after all. He was fined 500 euros, and another 500 euros that was conditionally suspended.
The Dutch judiciary does not have to prosecute companies for using blackface Zwarte Piet, the court in Amsterdam ruled on Wednesday in an Article 12 procedure brought by the foundation Nederland Wordt Beter, NU.nl reports.
The committee responsible for organizing Sinterklaas' arrival in Amstelveen quit, the college of mayor and aldermen wrote to the Amstelveen municipality. The committee refuses to accept any form of Zwarte Piet other than the traditional blackface one, and decided to rather step down than be forced into it, Het Parool reports.
The attempted coup in Turkey last year led to a significant increase of discrimination based on political affiliation reports in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch national association against discrimination LVD. Last year the association received 151 reports of discrimination based on political affiliation, compared to only 14 such reports in 2015. Most of these reports came from Turkish-Dutch, NOS reports.
The PVV's legislative proposal to make municipalities only participate in Sinterklaas events in which Zwarte Piet is wearing blackface makeup, could count on almost no support from both the lower house of Dutch parliament and the Dutch government today. Most parties in parliament were against the law and Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs stated that the bill goes against the Dutch constitution.
The lower house of Dutch parliament is discussing a PVV legislative proposal today that wants to ensure that Zwarte Piet keeps his blackface makeup. According to initiator Martin Bosma, "for years there's been a war against Zwarte Piet" and that has to stop, the Telegraaf reports.
Left-wing site Indymedia targeted Rotterdam police officers involved in the mass arrest of Zwarte Piet protestors in November in a kind of parody of the game Pokemon Go. The "game", called Poke-A-Cop, includes close up photos of the police officers as well as a description of their role in the arrests.
Dutch soldiers on a United Nations mission in Mali got a visit from Sinterklaas and two Zwarte Piets in their traditional blackface makeup on Monday, according to a photo the Ministry of Defense posted on Twitter.
Today Sinterklaas is visiting schools across the Netherlands in celebration of his birthday. And as tradition dictates, he will be accompanied by his Pieten. What exactly these Pieten will look like differs widely by region, municipality and schools and seems to be mostly determined by what neighborhood the school is located in, NOS reports after speaking with some 30 school boards, covering about a thousand primary schools across the country.
Two thirds of parents whose kids still believe in Sinterklaas say their kids are mostly unaffected by the ongoing debate surrounding blackface Zwarte Piet, according to a survey by I&O Research among 3 thousand adult Dutch, AD reports.
The Sinterklaas celebration with Zwarte Piet in his current blackface form can inadvertently contribute to stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice wrote in a letter to parliament. The government therefore supports the tradition being adapted, NU.nl reports.
"It is difficult, for example in the U.S., to explain the tradition of Zwarte Piet in his current form", the Minister wrote, but he added that the Dutch who "always celebrate the kids party with great joy" are not directly racist.
The Onze Wereld primary school in Rotterdam decided to scrap their Sinterklaas' arrival parade this year for "security reasons", school principal Tilly Terheijden said to newspaper AD. Instead Sinterklaas will arrive at the school out of sight of the parents.
The school decided to have Sinterklaas accompanied by so-called Chimney Pieten this year, instead of the traditional blackface Zwarte Pieten after a complaint by a parent. This decision led to a heated discussion among parents at the school, with both pro- and anti-Zwarte Piet groups rearing their heads.
The Sinterklaas Foundation in Leiden issued an official aplogy after a commotion erupted due their use of savage-like "cannibal" Zwarte Piet characters in blacface makeup. Sinterklaas was accompanied by a parade of blackface Piet characters dressed in frizzy wigs with bones in and panther skins when he arrived in Leiden on Saturday, Omroep West reports.
Anti-Zwarte Piet activist Jerry Afriyie filed abuse reports against a number of police offiers on Tuesday. According to the activists, the police use unnecessary violence while arresting him and nearly 200 others in Rotterdam on Sinterklaas' arrival day on November 12th, AD reports.
Right-wing grop Pegida decided to protest against Amsterdam's decision not to allow blackface makeup at its Sinterklaas party by parading Zwarte Pieten in blackface makeup through some of Amsterdam's most ethnically diverse neigborhoods.