Who Is Sara Baartman?
December 10, 2008
When 20 year old Sara Baartman left the shores of Africa, to see the land of Europe, little did she know that she would be displayed as a “freak’” and her body parts would not be returned to her home land until 187 years later. Sara Baartman arrived in London in 1810. For the next five years, she was a popular freak show attraction. When she died in Paris in 1816, at age 26, Baartman was dissected by a French scientist, who saw her as little more than an ape. That is why I ask the question-“Who is Sara Baartman?” and why every black woman should know her name.
Saartje” Sarah Baartman” was a member of the Khoisan group, the original inhabitants of southern Africa, and was born in 1789 in the Eastern Cape of present-day South Africa. The Khoisan, were referred to as the Hottentots, and were honey-colored and steatopygic—that is, fat is stored in their buttocks. Her original name is unknown, but when she was a teenager, she was employed by a Dutch farmer called Peter Cezar, and was given the Afrikaans name of Saartjie [Little Sarah] Baartman. In 1810, while she was working as a maid on the farm of Peter Cezar, her life changed: forever.
Sara Baartman was discovered by Alexander Dunlop, a ship surgeon, to embark on a journey set to sail to England. Sara was promised “Fame” and “Riches,” instead; because of her unusually large buttocks and genitals she was put on display as a “sideshow freak.” While Sara was being objectified, members of the public were invited to view the Hottentot Venus and paid two shillings as she stood almost completely naked, However, those who paid more were allowed to touch , poke and prod at her. Alexander Dunlop’s intentions were to display Sara as a “freak”, a “scientific curiosity”, and make money from these shows, some of which he promised to give to her. But no one will ever...