The European Race and Imagery Foundation’s (ERIF) annual Brand & Product report charts the evolution and relevance of the (Zwarte) Piet character, alongside the development of discussions on race, racism and inclusion, specific to the Netherlands.
About the report
The ERIF Sinterklaas Brand and Product study was launched in 2015 in order to evaluate how different (Dutch) shops and brands depicted the Zwarte Piet character on their packaging and advertisements. The key aim was to find a way to track the evolution of the character from a commerce perspective, as well as explore its contemporary role in the festival. The reports demonstrate a social market research, but also act as an archive of the anti-racism activism that has taken place in the Netherlands over the last decade, since our reports illustrate the year-on-year cultural—and subsequent commercial—shifts taking place in response to these campaigns.
Summary of the key results
This year we publish our seventh edition of this longitudinal research, where we utilise online quantitative data collection methods alongside in-store qualitative observations. We use a grade system to chart the numerous versions of the (Zwarte) Piet character across a variety of stores and brands. Some of the key results elaborated on in this year’s report include:
- Christmas and Halloween’s ongoing encroachment on Sinterklaas;
- We see more diversity in the people portraying the Sinterklaas and Piet characters, in that adults and children of who would be racialised in a variety of ways can be viewed as participating in both roles across numerous advertising campaigns and also within the products themselves;
- Stores are hiding their Piet-related products from general Sinterklaas searches online, therefore we amended our methodology to tackle this;
- The emergence of “Sneaky Piet”—a version of the character we’ve captured across all previous reports, but seems to be growing in popularity more recently;
- We note more usage of “brownface” as a marker of racial difference in specific products, which we nonetheless grade as “blackface” as it has the same intentions of racial mimicry, and produces the same effect;
- After a decade of protest and debate we expected stronger trends to emerge, however our dataset is as complex as in previous reports, showing continued confusion and uncertainty around if and how to include the Piet character
Find out more and download the 2022 report here.
For more information about this report, please reach out to Bel Kerkhoff-Parnell and/or Martijn Kerkmeijer at email@example.com
Founded in 2013, the European Race and Imagery Foundation (ERIF) aims to re-imagine a more inclusive Europe. We expose and criticize dominant narratives of belonging and racist imagery and amplify stories of resistance and towards liberation. All our activities seek to remedy how mainstream anti-racism neglects the histories, views and creativity of Black people and people of colour. In this perspective, ERIF produces events (conferences and workshops), social media campaigns (e.g. our Quotes of Resistance campaigns), online content (blog posts and toolkits) and research projects and publications (e.g. the annual Sinterklaas report; a special issue for Darkmatter journal about blackface in Europe), with the aim of amplifying, connecting across countries and facilitating the accessibility of antiracism efforts by activists, scholars, artists and (non-)citizens.