Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sexual Health Sundays: Racism and Representation

Have you heard of Saartjie Baartman? Maybe you know her as the “Hottentot Venus,” the name under which she was exhibited in Britain in the 19th century. Saartjie, a Khoisan woman from what is now South Africa, left for London in 1810 under the belief that she would earn money as a dancer. Instead, Saartjie found herself forced to participate in a London exhibition (“human zoos,” the products of colonialism, were common at the time). The European audience thought that Saartjie’s body was unusual and “overly sexualized”; she was displayed naked, the better to show her buttocks and labia. After her death in 1815 (aged only 26 years old), Saartjie’s genitals, brain, and skeleton were preserved by Georges Cuvier and placed in Paris’s Musee de l’Homme until 1974. Finally, President Nelson Mandela formally requested that France return her remains, and in 2002, she was returned to South Africa.

The following links present fascinating perspectives on Saartjie’s story, as well as on the wider implications at play.

Colonized and Consumed

Who is Sara Baartman? Every black woman should know her name

Letter from President Thabo Mbeki

Diary of an Anxious Black Woman: Saartjie Baartman

Exhibiting "Others" in the West

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children

Is Serena Williams the new Sarah Baartman?

Destruction of the Black Transwoman Image

Black Booty Body Politics


1 comment:

  1. Oh god yes! I heard her story in feminist art class. It's so terrible. Even after her death she was still treated like an animal. I was nauseous for days after hearing it.