The New Cut: Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given - Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss
Date: 13 May - 15 May 2010
Location: Picture This Studio, Bristol, UK

a choir singing with subtitles

Video still from Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given


Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given is part of an ongoing project under the same title by artists Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss, which is a critical investigation into the Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in the light of its social and political implications.


The film follows on from the artists' proposed event for ‘Be(com)ing Dutch', a two-year research project and exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum on issues concerning the Dutch national identity. It represents the artists' response to the public reactions towards the event and is a development of the discussions it triggered.

Zwarte Piet is a central part of the celebrated Dutch tradition, the feast of Sinterklaas. The celebration of the tradition takes place over the course of three weeks, starting in mid-November with the arrival of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in the Netherlands by boat to deliver gifts to the children. With him are numerous Zwarte Pieten, his black-faced assistants with red lips and dark curly hair.

This tradition is held dear in the collective memory of the Netherlands - and by the country's Retailers - but attempts to draw attention to the problematical aspects of the figure of Zwarte Piet in the press have generally met with immediate disparagement or ridicule.

The project as a whole creates an opportunity to open up this issue to public debate. Working and collaborating with individual activists and organisations the project has included an installation with placards and banners at the Van Abbemuseum, a planned but cancelled protest march / performance in the streets of Eindhoven and a public debate. In 2008 a planned protest march aimed to publicly give voice to a long, marginalised and suppressed critique against the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet. This event would be the starting point for the whole project. However, a few days before the march was to take place the project received extensive media reporting, triggering hundreds, if not thousands, of comments. Some of them were extremely negative reactions and even included threats of violence against people involved in the project. Due to these threats The Van Abbemuseum found itself forced to cancel the march.

The huge media attention revealed the refusal to discuss Zwarte Piet, and triggered the very complex discussion on questions such as national identity, racism, who has the right to speak, freedom of speech etc. The events also started a debate about whether the art institution is a place for reflection or action, and if the artists were making art or politics.

Read the Masks. Tradition Is Not Given marks the project's fourth phase, putting the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet in a broader context and reflecting on the heightened public discussions in the media generated by the previous parts.


Opening Times:

Thursday - Saturday

External links:

Related Items:

The New Cut
2009 -

The New Cut is a programme of brief exhibitions at Picture This contextualising our programme through a wider overview of artists' film and video

Amended dates for Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss exhibition

The amended dates for the Petra Bauer and Annette Kraus exhibition at the Picture This Studio are 13 May - 15 May 2010 following its postponement at

Petra Bauer

Petra Bauer’s films explore the possibilities of storytelling through the form of documentary making.

Petra Bauer at The Showroom

'Sisters!' a co-commission between The Showroom and Picture This, opens 28 September.