Cecile Emeke is a director, writer and artist based in London known for her popular online documentary series “strolling” and the short web series “Ackee & Saltfish”. For her last series Emeke strolled to the Netherlands to gather stories from people from black people’s experience in this country. As one of the interviewees says: “The stories of the African Diaspora are untold and they’re scattered all of the world, strolling helps to connect them”. Emeke documented her conversations with Ramona, Stephanie and Abdirashid, three people from the African Diaspora who have different perspectives on being black in the Netherlands.

 

Strolling Stephanie zwarte piet blackface needs to stop

 

Stephanie and Abdirashid tell about their experiences with the national blackface tradition Black Pete (“Zwarte Piet”). Both of them have been teased and called Black Pete (Zwarte Piet). “I have a terrible history with Black Pete”, Abdirahman reflects before sharing a painful story of his father being called Black Pete by children in a busy mall while no one intervened to defend him. Stephanie: “Oh you don’t need paint”, children kept calling his father Black Pete at 5 minutes in a mall, people around him didn’t say anything. Stephanie, a ‘plus size’ model, shares her painful experiences as well:

“Besides the fact that is has the same image as Golliwog and blackface and stuff it is rooted in slavery. But also, people don’t understand why it really hurts, and it really hurts. When children see me walking down the street they will tell me I am Zwarte Piet, I am Black Pete. During the 5th of December when Sinterklaas takes place I think twice about wearing red lipstick because people will look at me and think about or even tell me I look like Black Pete. It needs to stop it really needs to stop.”

Abdirahman discussed the social-cultural context of the lack of historical awareness in relation to Black Pete and says: “We don’t have a history of blackface being seen as a dehumanizing factor of black people mainly because the opinion of black people is not valued.”

 

Strolling Abidirashid3

 

The conversations furthermore touch upon topics ranging from citizenship, undocumented migrants, veganism, patriarchy, Islamophobia and many others of the complex experience of being black in Europe. As Paul Gilroy wrote “to be both European and black requires some specific forms of double consciousness” Check out the strolling series here:

Episode 3 with Stephanie Afrifra

Episode 2 with Abdirashid

Episode 1 with Ramona

 

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