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Zwarte Piet is a much beloved but controversial Dutch tradition. Visit this symposium on 5 November for a dialogue among academics and artists and a reflection on the current debate.

In recent years, the Dutch Sinterklaas festivities have become increasingly controversial because of the figure of Zwarte Piet. To the majority of Dutch people the tradition is related to warm and sentimental childhood memories, family holidays and a sense of belonging. On the other hand, for a growing group of opponents to the figure of Zwarte Piet, it brings up memories of a painful past of colonialism and slavery. Worse than that, it stands for still present, yet hidden and institutionalized racism and inequality.

The heated national debate seems to have polarized the Dutch people into pro- and anti-Zwarte Piet camps. Common ground seems to be lost within the intensity of the debate.

Pepernoten - Dutch treat at Sinterklaas festival

With the symposium we aim to facilitate dialogue and mutual understanding. Academics and artists will share their thoughts from different perspectives, explore the tradition’s meanings and origins and reflect on the current debate.

We cordially invite you to come and learn more about this evolving tradition. Ponder with us whether common ground can be regained and whether there are ways to improve and secure a heart-warming tradition that will be inclusive for everyone and will keep on moving generations for years to come.


Language of communication is English. 

Programme and location

For programme and location details, please visit

Entrance and registration

Free entrance. Registration required. Save a place (max. 250 places) and avoid queueing up by registering at