Venlo and Volendam, long bastions of blackface Zwarte Piet during the Sinterklaas celebrations, have both caved into pressure from anti-racism campaigners to make the switch.
While other cities have recognised blackface Piets are a racist stereotype, the two cities, have been stalwart opponents of sooty Piets for years. Volendam’s two Sinterklaas committees, which preside over the celebrations, have now decided to go for sooty Piets, or the Volendam version of them, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday.
The ‘compromise’ – a brown face with sooty stripes – may not meet with the criteria of the action group Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) but some Volendammers have described the change as ‘ripping off the plaster in one go’, the paper said.
Last year KOZP demonstrators in Volendam were pelted with eggs and fireworks when they held a protest about the use of black face, and the organisers said they did not want a repeat performance.
‘We have to recognise we need to adapt our beloved Sinterklaas celebrations and make them future proof. Sinterklaas is no longer universally welcome if he brings blackface Piets,’ a committee spokesman said.
Venlo, home of far right leader Geert Wilders, which had meant to ‘transition’ from blackface to grey face, has also adopted the sooty Piet,’ broadcaster NOS reported.
‘The children in Venlo and Blerick will see the same Piets they see on television,’ ceremony master Joep Raemakers told the broadcaster.
The Kick Out Zwarte Piet movement started 12 years ago, and has had a major impact. ‘There has been a shift in Dutch society,’ KOZP said in a statement ‘but there are still many places where Zwarte Piet is tolerated or even celebrated’.
On Thursday, the organisation opened a Meldpunt Zwarte Piet where people can report which towns and cities are still holding on to blackface Piets.
People are invited to post photos or videos so ‘in the year 2023, when it’s 150 years since the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies, we know where we still have our work cut out,’ the statement said.
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