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An interview with Zwarte Piet

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The Shallow Man, in his never ending quest to fulfil the requests of his readers, went to great efforts to secure an interview with the man who is a hero to so many Dutch children. A man, that to many represents the very essence of Dutch culture, yes after much negotiation with his agent, press officers and lawyers, I’m pleased to present an interview with Zwarte Piet. Now this interview might be upsetting to some, but not to worry, I already have my one way plane ticket back to London, for those that will inevitably ask the Shallow Man to go back to where he came from. The things I do for my readers!

An interview with Zwarte Piet

The Shallow Man admits to being nervous, to be interviewing such a famous international celebrity. A hero to millions of kids throughout the Netherlands.. He arrives at the secret location where the interview is being held along with an angry looking woman, that turns out to be his press officer, and a burly looking, muscular redhead who is there to protect him from demonstrators. Piet shakes my hand and gives me some pepernoten and suikergoed.

I start by thanking him for making time in his busy schedule for the interview.

ZP: “Busy? It’s July. Like the Royal family I only actually work four weeks a year, and summer is my quiet period.”

Shallowman: “So firstly I’d like to ask you, where are you from?”

ZP: “My origins are in Spain. I’m what’s known as a Moor, hence my appearance.”

Shallowman: “If you’ll excuse me, I’m a little confused. I thought that you were that color because you go down chimneys?”

At that point, his press officer intervenes. They go off into the corner of the room and there is some rapid whispering. Piet returns.

ZP: “errrrrrr, yes, well what I meant to say was that my forefathers were from Spain, but I’m Dutch, and when I go down a chimney I turn this color, it’s the soot.”

Look what the chimney does to white skin, hair and lips
Look what the chimney does to white skin, hair and lips

Shallowman: But If you’re Dutch, and lets say that your hair is blond or red, why is it that when you come out of the chimney, that your skin is the color of chocolate vla. I know that you Dutch people love Vla, but surely you don’t line your chimneys with it?” At this point the Press officer gives me the kind of look that would make a pit bull run away in fear. I press further. “So if I believe your story, Dutch chimneys are lined with Vla, red lipstick and afro wigs is that what you’re saying?”

ZP: “No I told you, that I’m a Moor, from Spain, that’s why I dress like this.”

Shallowman “Didn’t you just say that the color is from going down the chimney? I know it might be difficult for you to comprehend, but can you see why some people might take offence at your appearance and behavior?”

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ZP: “What does it matter? You’re missing the point Shallow Man, it’s our culture. Onze traditie. Did you know that two million people, yes two million signed a petition, a petitie to keep me just as I am? Two million. People that don’t like it can oprotten!”

Shallowman: “I thought that the population of the Netherlands was over sixteen million, now I’m not very good with maths but if we’re going to use your argument, then surely the majority of people….. At this point ZP gets very angry and shouts over me. “Children love ZP, you can’t come here as a foreigner and criticise our traditions. Puzzled I calmly ask him “Isn’t the Netherlands a democracy with freedom of speech for all guaranteed in your constitution?”

ZP “Freedom of speech is fine, as long as you agree with the majority. If you’re going to come here and disagree with what the majority of DUTCH people want, then you had better go back to your own country.”

Shallowman: “What about the people of Dutch nationality, who are from the former Dutch colonies, that have an issue with your appearance? Some just want you to adjust how you look. For example, why not have streaks of soot on your face and wear a hat, but lose the afro wig?” At this point Piet leaps to his feet and shouts. “The way I look has been part of a tradition going back HUNDREDS OF YEARS, WHY SHOULD I CHANGE ANYTHING JUST TO PLEASE A BUNCH OF PEOPLE WHO AREN’T EVEN PROPER DUTCH? WE DUTCH ARE THE MOST TOLERANT PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. IF PEOPLE DON’T LIKE IT THEY SHOULD GO BACK TO THE LAND OF THEIR FOREFATHERS.” He’s sweating now, his eyes are bulging, and I’m concerned that he might cause injury to my goodself.

He starts to calm down. “Sorry I shouted, but you must understand that this issue is bigger than me, Zwarte Piet, it’s about Dutch culture.” At the risk of another tirade I say to him “so the Netherlands, the land of Van Gogh, Ruysdael and Vermeer, it’s entire culture hinges on white people in blackface?” Without hesitation, he responds, “yes, Zwarte Piet IS Dutch culture and Dutch culture is Zwarte Piet. Who goes out on the streets to celebrate the birthday of Van Gogh or Vermeer? Niemand! The UN, the courts in Amsterdam, the Dutch media have got it wrong, I don’t need to change, better get used to it.

 

Mr Piet, I thank you for the interview.

From this
From this
and this
and this

 

Dutch culture 2014, hands off!
To this, Dutch culture 2014

About Simon Woolcot

Infamous blogger, annoyance and self confessed Shallow Man . Simon is a British expat who has lived in Amsterdam for over 11 years, and due to Brexit may soon be applying for asylum. As well as writing this blog, Simon also has a YouTube channel of the same name, writes and directs videos, and hosts seminars about life in the Netherlands

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  • Kenza

    Well, thank you shallow man!!!

  • Harvey Moon

    Good day, from one mature English gent in Amsterdam to another!

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog, but have read your previous posts with great relish. I trust you will allow me weigh in with my tuppenny’s worth on the subject of Zwarte Piet.

    Whilst I believe it to be an antediluvian relic, with nothing to merit its retention (save it being a so-called custom, as were slavery, human sacrifice, working down coal mines, and wife-beating in certain circles), it is the right of the Dutch to keep or dispose of as they see fit. One cannot deny this. Much like it is the right of the Dutch to ride their bicycles on the pavement, refuse to pick up their dogs’ faeces in the street, or to tell foreigners to ‘rot op’ back to their own land if they don’t like the way things are done here. (They must teach every Dutch person that hackneyed phrase in kindergarten, because they invariably use it once their limited ability to debate sensibly is reached – something easily attained in any vigorous discussion.)

    Any society that needs to roll out the “it’s for the children!” excuse in order to justify the continued existence of its archaic rituals really ought to take a good, hard look in the mirror sometime. So-called claims of tolerance easily fall apart and are revealed to be blind dogma when rationality and logic find no more tenets grounded in fact to cling to.

    Regardless, it is their fable and they wish to “honour their heritage” – so I propose a compromise, in the interest of balance and fairness.

    If the Dutch wish to retain Zwarte Piet, they should also reinstate the other elements of the Sinterklaas folklore that have since been discontinued. Namely, kidnapping (via black sack) for especially naughty children, and generous beating with birch switches for merely mischievous ones.

    One last thing before I depart: any Cloggie that attempts to claim that Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas share no unified provenance is either ignorant of religious hagiography, or is lying.

    Toodle pip, old bean!

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  • Charlotte

    Ha ha..brilliant. The odd thing is Piet only goes back as far as 1859, entering this fantasy world as a slave. Hardly old enough to warrant being the emotional back bone of an entire culture. Im quite sure there are other older and less suspect traditions that deserve more attention.