ZWARTE PIET SPEAKS

Associate producer: Lara Week
Concept / lead facilitator: Patrice Naiambana
Tribal Soul Arts project

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.

The project was supported by University College Roosevelt and Espressobar Ko D’oooooooor.