Sara Baartman was born in 1789. She was working as a slave in Cape Town when she was “discovered” by British ship’s doctor William Dunlop, who persuaded her to travel with him to England. When 20 year old Sara Baartman got on a boat that was to take her from Cape Town to London in 1810, she could not have known that she would would never see her home again. Nor, as she stood on the deck and saw her homeland disappear behind her could she have known that she would become the icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality for the next 100 years.
We’ll never know what she had in mind when she stepped on board that ship bound for London, certainly not the nightmare that became her life's story.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SARA BAARTMAN is the fascinating story of this Khoi Khoi woman who was taken from South Africa, and then exhibited as a freak across Britain. The image and idea of "The Hottentot Venus" swept through British popular culture. A court battle waged by abolitionists to free her from her exhibitors failed.
In 1814 she was taken to France, and became the object of scientific and medical research that formed the bedrock of European ideas about black female sexuality. She died the following year. But even after her death, Sara Baartman remained an object of imperialist scientific investigation. In the name of Science, her sexual organs and brain were displayed in the Musee de l'Homme in Paris until as recently as 1985.
See the moving and poetic youtube video tribute to Sara Baartman below and check out some of my other black history month highlights in the related links section below.
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