This is the beginning of my little drawings on Zwarte Piet, a Dutch companion of St. Nicholas. Wikipedia neutrally describes him like this: "In the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Flanders, Zwarte Piet ( pronunciation (help·info)) (meaning Black Pete) is a companion of Saint Nicholas (Dutch: Sinterklaas) whose yearly feast in the Netherlands is usually on the evening of 5 December (Sinterklaas-avond, that is St. Nicolas Eve) and 6 December in Flanders, when they distribute presents to all good children. The character of Zwarte Piet appears only in the weeks before Saint Nicholas's feast, first when the saint is welcomed with a parade as he arrives in the country (in the Netherlands by steam boat, from Spain), and is mainly targeted at children, who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools etc. He is sometimes associated with Knecht Ruprecht, but in the Low Countries the tradition has not merged with Christmas." Der Spiegeltouches on the true feelings around Zwarte Piet and his roots in Dutch colonialism. Piet has been transformed into a socially incorrect character who is rendered in print, animation and martzipan much the way Americans portrayed the "happy"character of African heritage. It is wildly disconcerting as the tone and feel of this companion is so wrong--and the tradition does not reinforce understanding and a broader thinking populace by teaching children racial stereotypes and likening it to candy and presents. So, how to portray this character without the bojangles-ism that is in the popular media today? I am going to keep trying...and see what evolves.
But, in my search to better understand Piet, I ran across this wonderful blog "Kats-In-Klompen" an online journal of an American artist, Judith Nijholt Strong. Her illustrations, photographs and daily observations are witty, beautiful and a happy insight into how another person is spending their time on this spinning orb. Judith got into the whole portrayal of Zwarte Piet verbally and through some very elegant photographs of people, cakes, store windows etc. So take a look. Judith also has a very interesting widget on her blog (free, so it is likely to come on my blog too) the "Link Within" widget, which shows related posts with thumbnails on your post. Take a look at LinkWithin>>
Alex is off to an indoor track meet. Kitty is working on her portrait for Tyler. Rob and Bruce are visiting and I am getting my wits together. I have completed four wreaths (and just gave one away)--so there is more wreath making this weekend along with maybe a Christmas Tree and the getting out of ornaments. I do have some pictures to make too. Hmm....what to start?