Dutch society vows to keep “Blackface” Zwarte Piet – Sinterklaas Christmas tradition -Origin is the black Moors of Spain
By Matthew Martin
New Zealand Herald
Rotorua and New Zealand’s Dutch communities are being asked to reconsider their Black Pete pre-Christmas tradition.
But the Netherlands Society Rotorua is defending the tradition – where a person blackens their face, paints their lips red and dons a curly black wig to hand out presents and sweets to children – saying it’s not racist and brings joy to children.
The Dutch tradition came under fire last year, and protests against the practise were held in the Netherlands, when the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on the Netherlands to revamp its Black Pete Christmas tradition because some saw it as a “vestige of slavery”.
The Netherlands Society Rotorua is holding its final Dutch Market of the year this morning at its clubrooms in Neil Hunt Park where Black Pete, also known as Zwarte Piet or Black Peter, will make an appearance with St Nicholas (Sinterklaas).
The Black Pete tradition is also followed in Belgium and Luxembourg.
The character is part of the feast of St Nicholas which is celebrated on December 5.
A spokesperson for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission asked whether the tradition was relevant in New Zealand.
“Not too long ago New Zealanders thought it was okay to have children’s books about Little Black Sambo, but most Kiwis now realise this was offensive and prejudiced.
“The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged the Dutch Government to show leadership but it is the Dutch people – including Dutch Kiwis – who have to ask themselves whether this is okay in 2015.
“The commission supports the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in urging all people to challenge and talk about racial stereotypes,” the spokesperson said.
But Netherlands Society Rotorua secretary Jo Harvey said the society was not about to drop the tradition that was looked forward to by many of its members.
“It’s not at all racist, I’ve been brought up with Black Pete, kids love him. He’s harmless and fun and a bit of a prankster, as St Nick is quite a stern character. Pete gives out the sweets, he’s the good guy.”
She said there were many versions and variations of the story. Some said he was a slave rescued by St Nicholas, others say he was a Moor from Spain or an orphaned child.
“But this is our tradition, it’s always been like that,” she said. “I was told he got black because he went down the chimney.”
Mrs Harvey said the character was played by a member of the society and had been for as long as she could remember.
“Each to their own. I’m sure there are people who don’t like it, but that’s their opinion. The kids just love it and have so much fun. They certainly don’t think about the racism aspect.”
She said the society did not understand why the United Nations got involved.
“It’s like trying to change Christmas to the festive season, it’s a bit too PC. For me Black Pete is the same thing – does it really matter?”
A must see video: CNN- ‘Blackface’: Dutch holiday tradition or racism?
November 30, 2015
Video: Zwarte Piet ‘Blackface’ (Black Pete) in Reigersbos – Amsterdam South East
Video: Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet arrive in Meppel, Netherlands where many are there protesting against the racist blackface
Video: Anti Zwarte Piet protesters take bus to Meppel, Netherlands
Video: Zwarte Piet Sinterklaas kids show
Video: 2015 Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet parade in Amsterdam -blackface event
Learn about the origins of why blackfaces are used -the black African Moors who ruled over Spain and Portugal
In 711, the black African Moors invaded Visigoth (modern Spain), Christian Hispania (Iberian Peninsula
The Moors ruled in the Iberian peninsula, except for areas in the northwest and the largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees, and in North Africa.
In 1492 King Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the entire Jewish community is expelled from Spain. This occurred when the Spanish Army defeated black African Muslim Moorish forces in Granada, thereby restoring the whole of Spain to European Christian rule.
In 1494 Jews of Florence and Tuscany were expelled.
In 1497 Portugal expelled its Jews. King Manuel of Portugal agreed to marry the daughter of Spain’s monarchs. One of the conditions for the marriage was the expulsion of Portugal’s Jewish community. In actuality only a few Jews were exiled from Portugal and the rest were converted by force to Christianity. On March 19, 1497 (the first day of Passover), Jewish parents were ordered to take their children, between the ages of four and fourteen, to Lisbon. Upon arrival, the parents were informed that their children were going to be taken away from them and were to be given to Christian Catholic families to be raised as good Catholics.
“Black Faced” European folk characters seen annually at Christmas holiday season- Is this actually a history lesson?
The black African Moors of Spain and Portugal
2013 Blackface Christmas gift giving season concludes again in the Netherlands
Santa Claus (“Saint Nicholas”) under fire over black faced helpers
Other racist images are used in the Netherlands
Origins of Dutch royal wealth
The “Golden Carriage” was given to Queen Wilhelmina from the people of Amsterdam as a gift in 1898. The painting by Nicolaas van der Waay was intended to recreate the style of the country’s 17th-century “Golden Age,” in which Amsterdam became wealthy as the hub of a naval empire. It depicts enslaved Africans.
Images shown on the Dutch royal carriage are of enslaved black Africans and the conversion of Africans from their Traditional African Religion into Christians.