Black Pete-Folklore as Racial Gospel

I chose a picture from Allison Blakely’s book Blacks in the Dutch World. One folklore that stood out to be in particular was that of Black Pete. Black Pete or Zwarte Piet is a part of the Dutch tradition of Christmas “fusing pagan and Christian” strains created from race related pagan ideology. Black Pete was a character in the Sinterklaas tradition where Black Pete represented a boogeyman figure. In pagan tradition anything associated with darkness was negative and scary figure meant for punishment. In the image above you can see Black Pete on the left side of the painting behind St. Nicholas. Black Pete is looming in the shadows. Interestingly, Blakely notes that any intention for the tradition of Zwarte Piet to not be racist or related to a chimney sweeping is unconvincing. Moreover, in Dutch pagan-Christian culture blackness and darkness was associated with Satan and whiteness with purity.

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One thought on “Black Pete-Folklore as Racial Gospel

  1. I like your choice of picture and your view of the intention of how Zwarte Piet is portrayed. The image of Zwarte Piet is undeniably negative due to the religious denotation behind it. Although Christian and pagan were in hostile situation for a large part of the history, it is interesting to see that both Christian and pagan attached darkness and whiteness with opposite symbols. I wonder if the religious denotation of colors in Christian and pagan religions came from the same origin and why does these colors have such meanings? Coming from a different cultural background, it is fascinating for me to see how these colors can have different interpretations in various cultures. In ancient China, the color black used to symbolize authority and solemnness while the color white represented death and sorrow, which is the complete opposite to their meanings in the western context.

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