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

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

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


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.


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.


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


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.


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

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