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Feature Documentary Seeks To Examine Dutch Zwarte Piet *Blackface* Tradition (Fundraising)

by Courtney
February 12, 2013 6:17 PM
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Zwarte Piet

Art Curator Shantrelle P. Lewis,  is developing a film examining the questionable and contentious Christmastime tradition in the Netherlands known as Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.

To be titled Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Documentary, here's how Lewis describes the film:

Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Documentary explores both sides of the tradition - and everything in between. Who seeks to change the tradition? Who seeks to maintain it? And why? The film features interviews of Dutch citizens, historians, scholars, activists, artists, and members of the general community. The film also explores the representation of Black people and the Black body in Dutch popular culture and how these images affect the lives of people of African descent on a day-to-day basis.

To assist in the completion of the film, Lewis has set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 in 30 days. So far, she's raised about $5,700 in 2 days, so clearly there's interest in the doc, and Lewis is on her way to reaching, and maybe even surpassing her goal. 

For more from Shantrelle, watch her pitch in the video below, and to make a contribution, click HERE to head over to the project's Kickstarter page to do so. Or click in the widget underneath the video:

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  • ALM | February 14, 2013 10:47 AMReply

    Sad and disrespectful....I am glad that she is bringing attention to this.

  • MiKo | February 14, 2013 2:16 AMReply

    Just backed the project with a few bucks, because I'm interested in the discussion. Particularly, I'm intrigued by the staunch denial of the mainstream Dutch population as to the identity of Zwarte Piet. The insistent claims that he is 'not an African, but a chimney sweeper' seems to indicate that people instinctively know there's something morally wrong here.

    My white Dutch grandmother (born 1914, now deceased) once told me that as a child she used to chant a children's rhyme called 'Neger, neger, schoorsteenveger' - translated: 'Negro, negro, chimney sweeper' (the thing rhymes in Dutch language). She also told me that, back in the day, Zwarte Piet used to be openly African. But the majority of Dutch folks back then not being accustomed to black people, the prevailing notion was that the blackness of the skin was something that could be 'rubbed off', just like the dirt of a chimney sweeper. (When my white grandmother was introduced to my black mother, in the 1960s, she actually wanted to rub to rub my mom's skin... ).

    I'm not against the inclusion of Zwarte Piet in the celebration of Sinterklaas. Much like you cannot erase the history of slavery, you cannot 'make things better' today, by simply having the guy disappear. But I would like to see folks openly admit that he is a black person. It's the hypocrisy that irks me.

  • BluTopaz | February 13, 2013 12:24 PMReply

    I am guessing Shantrelle Lewis is Black, and it's commendable for anyone of any race to make this film. For once I would like to see a White filmmaker tackle the history of racism in their culture though.

  • BluTopaz | February 13, 2013 12:30 PM

    eta--those types of films probably do exist more than I think (the segments re: Americana racism in Bowling for Columbine as an example), but usually when I see a project about a topic like this it's always from the pov of the non-White culture. Those photos above are hideous, and it seems as Europeans always want to pretend this doesn't exist, or that it's not harmful and we should stop complaining.

    And ITA with everyone's comments re: Dorner. I am not even 100% sold that he murdered those people, but whatev.

  • urbanauteur | February 13, 2013 12:29 PM

    Wishful Thinking on this side of the water.

  • urbanauteur | February 13, 2013 9:37 AMReply

    Bump Spike!....Chris Dorner and the Spook Who Sat By the Door... where are you?

  • urbanauteur | February 13, 2013 11:53 AM

    @GETTHE SENETS, you're certainly RIGHT!, my bad and condolences to the families, pertaining to Chris Dorner remark, when i said it, i was thinking more in BROAD STROKES and got caught up..something on the lines of a 21st century version of CUDJOE(leader of the maroons) or COLONEL TYE.. But I RECTIFY any Insensitivity toward the families this wayward brother took out, again like he was the incarnation of NAT TURNER himself.

  • getthesenets | February 13, 2013 9:54 AM


    with all due sensitivity to the familes of those he took out, when I was following the Chris Domer story....I was thnking more of Sweetback's Badass Song....or Rambo

  • Aaron | February 13, 2013 8:53 AMReply

    In the Netherlands these native europeans probably don't even know the history behind it but in short I'll explain it briefly. Saint Nicholas who was a black man was whitewashed and changed to Santa Claus and the black petes were his helpers who were whitewashed and changed to Santa's helper elves. That is pretty much what it is. European racism is a tradition wherever they are.

  • DRDR | February 13, 2013 8:48 AMReply

    This film needs to be seen. Spike Lee step up!

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