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Why Do Blackface Pickaninny Coons Still Exist in Holland?

  1. Jul 5, 2006 #1

    loseyourname

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    I just discovered all of this tonight and was rather flabbergasted.

    [​IMG]

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    There is even a band that dresses up in blackface and buffoonish pantaloons.

    [​IMG]

    What the heck is the deal with this? I've been looking into this and Sinterklaas, their version of Saint Nicholas (distinct from Santa Claus, despite the name) has an army of coons that deliver presents if you've been good, but beat you with a switch if you've been bad (some accounts have them kidnapping you and turning you into a black). They're called zwarten pieten. Apparently, Zwarte Piet was originally a devil or demon of some sort back in the middle ages that Saint Nick triumphed over and enslaved (prior to beginning of the Dutch slave trade). The story has evolved over the years and he is now seen alternatively as Turkish or Moorish, and in some accounts will take you to the Caliphate in Spain if you're bad (obviously, the Caliphate no longer exists, but that is why it was originally a bad thing to be taken to Spain). The devil evolved into a muslim but is depicted as a straight pickaninny right out of Song of the South. Some kid in Holland that is a black caribbean was tired of being harassed by little kids that thought she was Zwarte Piet, was offended, and got 200 signatures on a petition to ban the presence of this figure in school celebrations before the teachers confiscated it, saying she was ruining the joy of Sinterklaas, which I guess just isn't the same without an outrageous caricature of the darkie tradition.

    Obviously, I'm not Dutch and have no clue how cherished a tradition it is for them to have a pickanny muslim devil whip kids with a switch if they've been bad that year and threaten them with also becoming black, but why on earth is this kind of thing accepted?

    I know we have members here from Holland. Does this honestly not bother you?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2006 #2
    Your guess is as good as mine, it is a bit strange. I was explained it slightly different that what you just outlined. I know there is a bunch of history associated with it all. But they certainly dont call them "coons" or "Pickanny muslim devils" in the netherlands, nor is there any attempt to assoicate it with Racism. It is just an 'evil' spirt that will get you if you are bad, which so happens to be black.

    Dont read too much into it, harmless "fun"
     
  4. Jul 5, 2006 #3
    It's a wide spread misunderstanding that Zwarte Piet belongs to etnic minorities with darker colored a skin. The sole reason for this skin color is in his job. In the night he accompanies his patron, Sinterklaas, jumping on his white horse (schimmel) from roof to roof, to crawl down every chinmey and deliver goodies and presents to the children who are living there.

    Ever seen a chimney from the inside? That's why he is black.
     
  5. Jul 5, 2006 #4

    J77

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    Black Piet rules!

    It is strange seeing people balcked-up, rollerblading around the city giving sweets to little kids who are shouting, repeatedly, Piet Piet..

    However, you look at the crowd, and there are all races and religions enjoying it.

    And he's Spanish.

    edit: strange you bring the subject up in the Summer!
     
  6. Jul 5, 2006 #5

    Moonbear

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    That's the version I've heard from my Dutch friends...he's the chimney sweep who accompanies Sinterklaas to deliver the presents.
     
  7. Jul 5, 2006 #6

    Evo

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    I can see LYN's point though, look at the exagerrated lips, the nose, the hair. Then pull up pictures of old American "blackface" cartoons. They're identical.
     
  8. Jul 5, 2006 #7

    loseyourname

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    I found several discussions of this topic on blogs and various Dutch people were describing the character as Turkish and a Spanish Moor, which is why I posted that. Apparently, there are quite a few accounts of its origins, which are not exactly consistent with one another.

    As Evo said, it's the caricaturish nature that is so startling, not the simple fact that he is black. Just look at some images of the darkie tradition from the United States:

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    Spike Lee's parody of/fable about the tradition:

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    Given that the Dutch images developed right around the time of first contact with north and west African black populations for northern Europeans populations, it's hard to believe this is just pure coincidence. I'm sure no harm is meant by it, but even if someone just happened to independently develop a cartoon character that is a hook-nosed rat with a star consisting of overlapping triangles drawn on its back, absent any knowledge of the history of anti-semitic caricatures, it would be pretty jarring for someone with knowledge of that history to see. I've just spent the last three weeks studying the history of how blacks have been represented in American films from the silent era to today and the similarity between the images just shocked me. I had heard of the German version of this character before, but had no idea this was what it looked like. I just imagined a regular looking dark guy in regular looking clothes.
     
  9. Jul 5, 2006 #8
    One point LYN, Morrocans Algerians et all, dont look like that, they look more like Italians Greeks and Spainards. So if this does come from interaction with Africans it would have to be from west african.
     
  10. Jul 5, 2006 #9

    Kurdt

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    I see why people would be shocked by the images but the origin of black peter if I'm not mistaken was as the devil who was captured by sinterklaas and put to work delivering gifts during the festival feasts on the 5th and 6th of december. The origin of this is sometime around the middle ages at a time I suppose when many were ignorant of the existence of black people. The black colour of his skin merely representing the evil of the devil in traditional style darkness and light etc.

    Anyway I suppose in modern times the racial aspect has taken precedence especially with those who are not brought up with the traditions of the dutch christmas celebrations. Not sure where the clothes come from though.
     
  11. Jul 6, 2006 #10

    J77

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  12. Jul 6, 2006 #11

    Kurdt

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    That has to be the worst 'disguise' ever!
     
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