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.”
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?”
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, its 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.
This article is previously published on Amsterdam Shallow Man.
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