ZWARTE PIET SPEAKS
Zwarte Piet Speaks was a creative lab held by Tribal Soul in Middelburg, the Netherlands, in November 2012.
We invited 14 students from University College Roosevelt to participate in a four-day lab exploring the Zwarte Piet, a central figure in the Dutch holiday Sinterklass. The character is played by white people in curly black wigs and blackface. We had two guest speakers: an artist-activist who is leading a movement to acknowledge the figure as racist, and a science teacher from the College who is involved in his local festivities and has played Zwarte Piet each year for decades. Participants were lead through creative exercises to instigate the sharing of their own experiences. The outcome was a performance, described here by participant Jonathan Senhorst:
“For the performance we decided to make our Zwarte Piet a fairy tale figure ignorant of its history, as most of us white Dutch were. In the play one of the Zwarte Pieten characters begins to wonder where he comes from. He discovers a history of oppression, slavery and discrimination and winds up questioning his own existence. The performance ends with him choosing to paint his face white, assuming his right of self-determination, as I see it.”
We had two sharings and reached an audience of 200 people.