‘Black Pete’. A Dutch tale.
In this series I followed a group of teenagers preparing backstage for their transition into 'Black Pete'. When they paused from their (voluntary) dressing up, I stayed and photographed.
This series of portraits and documentary images are partly documenting the celebration of this event in the Netherlands. It is an ongoing project.
background information about Black Pete:
In the Netherlands the tradition of the appearance of Black Pete during the celebration of the tale 'Sinterklaas' (Saint Claus), which goes back to the 16th century, is being questioned up to a political level.
Each year Sinterklaas is celebrated on December 5th. Very much resembling a white Saint, Sinterklaas is riding a horse on rooftops and is handing over presents to all children. ‘Black Pete’ assists him; a dark skinned helping hand, (male or female) who is, according to the tale, climbing into people’s chimneys in order to deliver the presents. This would also ‘explain’ their darker skin color.
Each year more and more people are of the opinion that the appearance of ‘Black Pete’ must change. It is being regarded as discriminating. The larger cities in the Netherlands are now changing the appearance by only painting ‘strokes’ of black paint. Whereas in the small villages in the Netherlands still the complete face is painted black.
Since the Netherlands has played its part in the Trans Atlantic Slavetrade, a large group of people refer and are of the opinion that a connection is found. ’Black Pete’ is a figure based on the stereotypical depiction of black people in the 19th century. His appearance could be regarded as a direct reference to Dutch past of colonialism and slavery.
It is a larger series of portraits and documentary images of celebrating this event in the Netherlands.
I have no intention to neither abuse nor discriminate, I am merely observing.
By Mascha Joustra —
for more access