De Nieuwe Sint (New Saint) is a character created and depicted by the 46-year-old actor, Patrick Mathurin, as a black and inclusive alternative to Sinterklaas, the traditional Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, who is accompanied by a controversial blackface character called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).
People dressed as Zwarte Piet wear minstrel’s clothes and blackface, and take part in Sinterklaas’ arrival parade. Mathurin said that he initially began de Nieuwe Sint because he wanted ‘‘to show the Netherlands how we should do something about the institutionalized racism.’’ Furthermore, Mathurin also told the Amsterdammer that ‘‘the solution is a party without any servant or slave, but with only saints.’’
De Nieuwe Sint will have his own arrival in Amsterdam on December 1, arriving by boat at Paradiso, which Mathurin called a ‘beautiful rock palace’ and ‘the number one pop temple of the Netherlands’, at 12:30 p.m. There will be a party featuring circus skills, a magic show, and a number of musical acts, including de Nieuwe Sint performing with his reggae band.
‘‘I would love to see that people would come and join me on the boat,’’ said Mathurin, comparing his plans to the Gay Pride Canal Parade. ‘‘Everybody’s a saint and wouldn’t it be beautiful to have a parade with all these boats with all these people dressed up as saints?’’
Mathurin explained that de Nieuwe Sint grew out of a multimedia theatre performance that he performed on squares around the city. Moreover, Mathurin added a song about Zwarte Piet, which is called ‘Sinterklaasje Zonder Knecht’ (Sinterklaas, come in without your servant/slave), into the performance in 2009. In 2010, he made a music video for it, proposing his solution of a party where everyone is a saint.
De Nieuwe Sint’s arrival into the city has been held since 2015. Mathurin said that he began to dress as de Nieuwe Sint because he wanted to not only tell people his solution, ‘‘but also to be this change itself.’’ After several appearances as de Nieuwe Sint, ‘‘it was so well-received that it grew and the media started to pay attention to it.’’
‘‘So it was a process which started with just a theatre play, adding songs to it, a music video, and then starting to become the thing (that) I call the solution of the problem,’’ Mathurin shared with the Amsterdammer. ‘‘And it’s getting bigger and bigger.’’
Mathurin openly invites anyone who is interested in joining him on the boat this December. ‘‘Come and be part of the festivity and dress up like a saint, wear the hat, and just show that you support this party without any racism or classism.’’
- Metro Reporter (Fall 2018)
- Metro Reporter (Winter 2019)