Today, May 6th 2012, marks the 10th anniversary since the remains of Sara “Saartjie” Baartman were returned to her homeland, in the Gamtoos Valley, South Africa.
For those who are unfamiliar with Sara Baartman, she was born in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. By the time she was a young adult she was enticed by a British businessman to sail with him to England, where she could display her body at exhibitions in exchange for a better standard of living. Sara, the “Hottentot Venus,” being a “Hottentot” woman (a derogatory term given), from the Khoisan tribe, had exceptionally large buttocks and genitals. This physical structure was synonymous of the women from that region.
After a few years of such exploitation in the UK she was probably sold to some other businessman, this time in France, where the mockery and abuse started all over again. After the French public got bored with her she was forced into prostitution and alcoholism. By the time she was 25years old she died of a disease associated with that profession. From there she was carved up and had her brains and genitals preserved in bottles by one of Napoleon’s surgeons. These parts, along with her bones were put on display in a museum called Musee de L’homme, for almost 200 years. After public outcry over the years, the artifacts were taken off display and replaced by casts.
When Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994, one of the first things he requested was to have her remains brought back to South Africa for a decent burial.
Out of embarrassment, it wasn’t until May 6th 2002 before the French finally followed up on that request. Sara’s remains were finally buried near a small town called Hankey, on the Eastern Cape three months later.
Because of the touchiness when it comes to race, it was rarely uttered that this whole experience had surpassed the notoriety of the Elephant Man.
To Sara, there is life after death… The ancestors still speak.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SARA BAARTMAN & HER STORY CLICK HERE