Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given.
Film screening and discussion
Thursday 3 December, 19.00 hrs
Location: Louis Hartlooper Complex
Download the press release
The film ‘Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given’ (2009, ca. 80 min) is part of an ongoing project of the same title by artists Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss, which questions the Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in the light of its social and political implications. The screening takes place on Thursday 3 December, 19.00 hrs at Zaal 4 of the Louis Hartlooper Complex, Tolsteegbrug 1, Utrecht and is followed by a discussion.
The film recaptures the project’s trajectory, including the intense public response that it has generated since August last year. ‘Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given’ has been developed in the context of ‘Be(com)ing Dutch’, a two-year research project and exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum on issues concerning the Dutch national identity. It sets out to critically explore the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet in Dutch society.
The feast of Sinterklaas, in which Zwarte Piet appears, is one of the most celebrated Dutch traditions. In mid-November, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) arrives in the Netherlands by boat (an event broadcast on national television) to bring gifts to the children. He is accompanied by numerous Zwarte Pieten, his black-faced assistants with red lips and dark curly hair. While this tradition is cherished in the collective memory of the Netherlands -and by the country’s retailers-, the problematical aspects of the figure of Zwarte Piet have only rarely been discussed in the mainstream media, as attempts to question this figure have generally met with immediate disparagement or ridicule.
The project ‘Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given’ creates an occasion to open up this issue to public debate. It is organized in collaboration with individual activists and collectives such as Doorbraak and Untold. After an installation with placards and banners at the Van Abbemuseum, a planned but cancelled protest march/performance in the streets of Eindhoven and a public debate, the film marks the project’s fourth phase, putting the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet in a broader context and reflecting on the heightened public discussions in the media generated by the previous parts.
This event is organized by Casco Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht in collaboration with Fonds BKVB, Kosmopolis Utrecht, and Imagine IC.