Dutch reject 'Black Pete' criticism

Country's winter "Sinterklaas" festival, including clowns in black face makeup, stirs debate over racism claims.

    Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete's) arrive by boat to bring gifts to children on December 5 [AFP]
    Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete's) arrive by boat to bring gifts to children on December 5 [AFP]

    A Dutch Facebook page seeking to preserve the country's fall "Sinterklaas" festival exactly as it is - including clowns in blackface makeup known as "Black Petes" - has received nearly a million 'likes' just 24 hours after it was created.

    The swift growth of the "Pete-ition" page reflects the depth of emotional attachment most Dutch people feel to the tradition, and their annoyance at outsiders who judge it without understanding it.

    On Tuesday, a UN expert condemned the tradition as racist.

    In the festival, St Nicholas arrives in mid-November accompanied by a horde of helpers - the Black Petes, who also have red lips and curly hair.

    Opponents say they are an offensive caricature of black people, but supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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