The 'performance art' protest march against Zwarte Piet, planned for tomorrow, has been cancelled (NL). After a flood of negative, and in some cases aggressive, reactions to the news of the planned march, the Van Abbe museum pulled the plug 'in the interest of the artists and art in general'. One of the participating organisations, Doorbraak (NL; a leftist little club striving against 'capitalism and the patriarchy'. Yes, one of those), put it all down to:
threats of racist and nationalist riff-raff, that seems to be gaining ground in society.In an official statement (NL) the museum says it is
shocked by the extreme negativism and looming violence in the reactions following the announcement of this march. To us it is a sign of our current cultural climate that a subject that has been discussed many times can lead to such extreme emotions.What seems to be missing from the museums understanding is the notion that maybe this subject has been 'discussed' one too many times. For a good twenty to thirty years people like the artists commissioned by Van Abbe have bothered us with their racial obsession over Zwarte Piet and finally, it seems, Dutch patience has worn out. Enough. No more.
The 'sign of our current cultural climate' the Van Abbe is apparently worrying about, might just be a signal that the Dutch are done with the insult and abuse foisted on us in the name of 'art'. It may just be a sign, like extreme-leftist MPs being forced to resign, that the Dutch are finally slamming their fist on the table.
But that notion is just too weird for the Van Abbe to contemplate. The artists in question also can't get their head around this. Nowhere is this more clear then in the reaction by the artists in the same statement, where they once more bleat about the 'colonial history and racist structure' at the base of the Zwarte Piet tradition. Fears of repeating myself be damned: The Zwarte Piet tradition pre-dates the colonialism and 'institutional racism' of the 18th and 19th century by 200 - 600 years. Claiming otherwise is tantamount to historical revisionism.
But both artists aren't above putting facts into their own, particular perpective. About the intent of the march they write:
The march would have been a platform for opinions not heard before - in the past and in the last few days.Come again? 'Not heard before'? That's the whole point, the sole cause of this flare up of public opinion, isn't it?. We HAVE heard it before, just about every single year for the last 20 to 30 years. The discussion always seems to go one way, too. Zwarte Piet is bad (because he's black. The irony is sweet, isn't it?) and should disappear. That we're putting an end to a tradition that harms nobody and of which most of us have pleasant memories, memories even adult Dutch like to relive vicariously through their own children, well, that's just tough cookies.
Always the same baseless accusations of racism and discrimination, the same joyless blaming for not wanting to put an end to a tradition we hold dear. The same holier-then-thou pointing out of the True Path (tm). And apparently we've finally become sick enough of it to get off our behinds and express how we feel.
In a way I feel sorry for the two 'artists' involved. Yes, they are mediocre, know-it-all goody-two shoes, who shouldn't have meddled in a tradition that isn't theirs to pronounce verdict over. But they probably had no idea of the hornets nest they were stirring up. I imagine the reactions they drew were fierce. That's the trouble with the Dutch. They usually don't anger easily, but when they do... one would do well to lock up the china ware. It is satisfying, however, and not a little hope-inspiring, to see the Dutch rising up to defend something that is ours.
More of this, please!