The time is right for Neukpiet

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The black Woody Allen calls the Surinam-Dutch stand-up comedian Anthony Moreno himself. “Call me Hoody Allen.” He has little success until, in an attempt to crush the racist clichés surrounding Zwarte Piet with hard satire, he performs as ‘Neukpiet’. Hoofdpiet? Pakjespiet? No. “I would know if I had to choose,” he says. “Fuck Pete! I would be the fucker. I’d show all the naughty mothers my bag […] I slap your bottom with my roo! ”

How that whole comedy act (Neukpiet and Tripsint) gets out of hand, in a near future Netherlands where Zwarte Piet has just been abolished by referendum, can be seen and read in a remarkable graphic novel The Fuck Pet or: How I Found My True Self And Accidentally Unleashed A Race War.

The creators are screenwriter Ashar Medina (Mocro Mafia) and director Gonzalo Fernandez (Tom Adelaar). They actually wanted to make a feature film about Zwarte Piet for adults. “A satire, because that is the best way to show the insanity of the whole,” says Ashar Medina. But the money was not there yet. And filming in Suriname, the story is also about the relationship between the Netherlands and Suriname, is expensive.

Pages from The Neukpiet.
Image Das Mag

Friendly competition

And then in May this spring, African American George Floyd was killed by agents in an arrest. Globally, Black Lives Matter protests erupted against racial violence. Also on the Dam, where rapper Akwasi in a speech called Zwarte Piet: he wanted to kick him in the face when he came across him. Akwasi later expressed regret for that statement, he had wanted to express his dislike for the racist ‘black face’ tradition. “Some of the things we had come up with for our scenario, the fierce reactions around Zwarte Piet, were suddenly overtaken by reality,” says Medina. The time was right for Neukpiet. And a comic is made faster than a movie. So Medina and Fernandez set up a graphic novel project together with publisher Das Mag. Six draughtsmen were sought, all of whom would edit part of the scenario.

One of them was visual artist and illustrator Brian Elstak, who created his children’s book Market won a Silver Brush in 2018. “We were allowed to participate in the discussion about how we portrayed scenes,” says Elstak. “Because a film script is not yet a comic strip. Everyone worked from the same online document, so we all saw each other’s work. That is how we stimulated each other, like rappers who together make each other better in a battle through friendly competition. ” This is how the book took shape in about four months.

The artists have different styles, but together they form a wonderful whole, because the artists always have their own storylines. For example, Elstak made the flashbacks in which comedian Anthony thinks back to his youth and his search for his father in Suriname, partly in the style of superhero comics. They are horror scenes on an old slave plantation. “It’s not a children’s book,” says Elstak with a ‘deadpan’ smile.

Cover of The Neukpiet.
Image Das Mag

Hostage

It also features a thriller-like hostage scene, drawn by Victor Meijer (known from book covers of Hendrik Groen) in a style reminiscent of the French cartoonist Moebius. It also contains short documentary elements, about the history of black face painting in the Netherlands and the almost 100 years of protests against Zwarte Piet as racism.

The story, says Medina, is partly inspired by Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled from 2000. This is a dark comedy that deals with the American tradition of blackface, in which white and black comedians had to paint their faces black to please white audiences. There too there are documentary elements, and critically intended satire gets out of hand.

And the long title of Neukpiet is a conscious reference to the black film comedy by Stanley Kubrick, about the nuclear threat in the Cold War: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The Neukpiet movie is definitely going to come with some Ashar Medina. “We hope to start playing at the end of next year.” But until then, according to him, there is no crazier, more original and more exciting Sinterklaas present than Neukpiet.

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