I’ve come to take you home –
home, remember the veld?
the lush green grass beneath the big oak trees
the air is cool there and the sun does not burn.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white
and the water in the stream chuckle sing-songs
as it hobbles along over little stones.
I have come to wretch you away –
away from the poking eyes
of the man-made monster
who lives in the dark
with his clutches of imperialism
who dissects your body bit by bit
who likens your soul to that of Satan
and declares himself the ultimate god!
I have come to soothe your heavy heart
I offer my bosom to your weary soul
I will cover your face with the palms of my hands
I will run my lips over lines in your neck
I will feast my eyes on the beauty of you
and I will sing for you
for I have come to bring you peace.
I have come to take you home
where the ancient mountains shout your name.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white –
I have come to take you home
where I will sing for you
for you have brought me peace.
Diana Ferrus, a South African poet who wrote this about Sarah Baartmen (read more: here). She came and visited one of my classes today and gave us a history lesson on South Africa, told us her life story, and read this and two other poems, one about her experience voting in the first democratic election in South Africa and the other about her reclaiming the Afrikaans language. What an amazing woman, she had me laughing, smiling, and crying the entire time. Check out her work online or buy her book, “I’ve Come To Take You Home.”
Europe is Just As Racist with a History of Dehumanizing, and Brutalizing Africans/Black People
Sarah Baartman, remains were returned and laid to rest in her homeland 187 yrs later. She was put on display to further Europeans racist “scientific” ideology that Africans/blacks were inferior to them, and oversexed. Her naked body was displayed in “freak shows”, and “exhibits” for the European gaze. She died at the age of 25.
Georges Cuvier, a French so called scientist, made a plaster cast of her body, then removed her skeleton and, after removing her brain and genitals, pickled them and displayed them in bottles at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris.
Some 160 years later they were still on display, but were finally removed from public view in 1974. In 1994, then president Nelson Mandela requested that her remains be brought home. It took the French government eight years to pass a bill – apparently worded so as to prevent other countries from claiming the return of their stolen treasures – to allow their small piece of “scientific curiosity” to be returned to South Africa.
The way she was treated sickens me. The fact that France returned her body only recently is revolting.
You displayed pieces of her body until 1974. And kept it, for what? That fact that the French called pieces of her body their treasures? And we’re afraid that the British or other nations may lay claim to this “treasure”. Her story is heartbreaking. I can’t believe they had her remains for 187 yrs. I don’t want to ever hear again from Europeans about their own fucked up racist fascist white supremacist history not existing. That is bullshit. What happened to Sarah Baartman is horrifying.
They used and displayed her body as an object, void of any compassion towards or for her.
She was originally from South Africa of the
Khoikhoi people and exploited throughout Europe. Baartman lived on in poverty, and died in Paris of an undetermined inflammatory disease in December 1815. After her death, her body was dissected, then displayed her remains. For more than a century and a half, visitors to the Museum of Man in Paris could view her brain, skeleton and genitalia until she was buried
A “reverse” timeline that was included in our program written by production dramaturg, Jules Odendahl-James.
31. March 2012: South Africa’s Department of Arts & Culture pledges R168-million ($22 million US) to fund the building of the Saartjie Baartman Centre of Remembrance.
30. Sept. 2010: Venus Noire, a film by Tunisian born French filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche, premieres. His body of work explores the immigrant experience in France.
29. Fall 2002: Baartman’s grave is vandalized. Officials erect a metal fence around the site.
28. Aug. 22, 2002: The former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, declares Baartman’s grave a national heritage site.
27. Aug. 9, 2002: After a Khosian cleansing ritual, Baartman’s remains are buried in the area of her birth, the Gamtoos River Valley, in Cape Town South Africa.
26. Jan. 2002: The preserved body parts, skeleton, and full plaster body cast of Baartman is returned to South Africa from the Musee de l’Homme (Museum of Man) in Paris, France.
25. 1996: Suzan-Lori Parks’ play VENUS premieres at Yale Repertory Theatre, directed by Richard Foreman. Parks wins a 1996 Obie Award for playwriting.
24. 1994: Newly elected South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela makes a formal request to the government of France to return Baartman’s remains.
23. 1994: According to one source, Baartman’s body parts are included as part of an exhibition critical of the nineteenth century European artists’ depictions of aboriginal and African peoples.
22. 1985: In The Flamingo’s Smile, renowned paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould writes about Baartman’s skeleton and dissected genitalia residing in jars amongst the preserved brains and skulls of white European male subjects in the archives of Paris’s Museum of Man. He describes the scene as a “chilling and immediate insight into the scientific racism of the nineteenth century.”
21. 1985: In “Black Bodies, White Bodies,” cultural and literary historian Sander Gilman analyzes how Baartman’s body was objectified in life and death: “Sarah Baartmann’s […] genitalia and her buttocks, serve as the central image for the black female throughout the nineteenth century.”
20. 1981: In Mismeasure of Man, Gould mentions the display of Baartman’s preserved skeleton. According to one source, this provokes curators to move all of the materials into the archives.
19. 1974 or 1976: Baartman’s skeleton, preserved genitals and brain are placed in the museum archives. A full plaster body cast of her partially naked figure remains on public display.
18. 1815-1970s: Initially kept in the private rooms of naturalist Georges Cuvier, the “father of comparative anatomy” and Napoleon’s Surgeon General, Baarman’s body parts and plaster cast eventually become part of the Museum of Man’s permanent collection.
17. 1815: Cuvier petitions Napoleon to take possession of and perform an autopsy on Baartman, “to determine her relationship between animals and other human beings.” He casts the corpse in plaster, macerates the body, preserves the skeleton, removes and “pickles” the brain and genitalia.
16. 1815: Baartman dies. Reports conflict on whether the cause was alcoholism, venereal disease, pneumonia (due to the particularly harsh Parisian winter that year), or a combination of all three.
15. 1814-1815: It is unclear when Cuvier first saw Baartman but it is around this time that he “rents” her for study, which includes extensive sketching and measurement of her body by him and his colleagues at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturell in Paris.
14. 1814: Emmanuel Théaulon’s vaudeville play, The Hottentot Venus, entertains Parisians. It tells the story of a French gentleman, Adolphe, who declares his intent to marry “une femme sauvage” but recants when he sees a portrait of the real Hottentot and is horrified at her appearance.
13. 1814. Cesars sells Baartman to an animal trainer, Réoux, who displays her across France.
12. 1811-1814. Cesars tour Baartman across England. Initially an extremely popular attraction, especially after her court case, public interest and revenues lag.
11. Dec. 1811: Baartman is baptized by Chaplain Joseph Brookes.
10. 1810: A court case is brought by abolitionists arguing Baartman is being held against her will. She gives her testimony in Dutch, saying her treatment is acceptable. The case is dismissed.
9. 1810: With help from a British Army medical officer, Baartman is brought to London by the Cesars brothers. She begins her career as “The Hottentot Venus” in Piccadilly Circus. She is advertised as “a most correct and perfect Specimen of [the Hottentot] people,” exemplified by her large posterior (or steatopygia).
8. 1807: The Slave Trade Act is passed by British parliament but slavery does not officially come to an end across the Empire’s homeland and holdings until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
7. 1806: British forces occupy the Cape colony and missionaries petition the British government for special protection of the Hottentots “because of their general imbecile state.”
6. 1800-1820: Displays of human “curiosities” draw large crowds in Georgian London.
5. 1805: After her parents die, Baartman moves to Cape Town and becomes a servant in a series of houses including that of a Free Black man named Hendrik Cesars and his brother Pieter.
4. 1770 or 1789: Saartjie (Sara, Sarah) Baartman (Bartmann, Baartmann) is born 400 miles from now Cape Town.
3. 1650-1700: The Dutch tighten their control over the “Hottentots,” from the Dutch hateren (to stammer) and tateren (to stutter). Hottentot representation changes in European accounts from violent to indolent savages whose lack of work ethic necessitates the appropriation of their land.
2. 1652: The Netherlands East India Company establishes a rest station at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, bringing smallpox and forced labor to the “nomadic pastoralists” Khoikhoi.
1. 1400 (and before)-1650: The Khoikhoi populate areas between what is now Northern Bostswana and the Cape. Their carefully modulated language of click sounds and violent actions against foreigners are characterized in European accounts as proof of their position on the lowest run on the Great Chain of Being.
“I’ve come to take you home – home, remember the veld? the lush green grass beneath the big oak trees the air is cool there and the sun does not burn. I have made your bed at the foot of the hill, your blankets are covered in buchu and mint, the proteas stand in yellow and white and the water in the stream chuckle sing-songs as it hobbles along over little stones.
I have come to wretch you away – away from the poking eyes of the man-made monster who lives in the dark with his clutches of imperialism who dissects your body bit by bit who likens your soul to that of Satan and declares himself the ultimate god!
I have come to soothe your heavy heart I offer my bosom to your weary soul I will cover your face with the palms of my hands I will run my lips over lines in your neck I will feast my eyes on the beauty of you and I will sing for you for I have come to bring you peace.
I have come to take you home where the ancient mountains shout your name. I have made your bed at the foot of the hill, your blankets are covered in buchu and mint, the proteas stand in yellow and white – I have come to take you home where I will sing for you for you have brought me peace.”
*from my Instagram* I am soo sick and tired of the abuse on the black female body. The first picture is of Swedish Minister of Culture when they kicked off World Art Day with a ceremonial cut to the genitals of the black coated cake with a woman in black face. While the second image is of a cake in the shape of a thong wearing butt that is presented to 2Chainz in the music video “Birthday Song” where he repeats “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe.” I mean in the end is there any real difference in the two cakes? I’m offended and outrages of the constant objectification of black female bodies dating back to the days of Sarah Baartman aka Hottentot Venus.
Racist? Caroline Wozniacki Imitates Serena Williams w/ Bra & Butt (by MidweekPolitics)
Man! All of my progressive shows are failing at their commentary about this issue. It is annoying to me that they made fun of the all male republican committees that were convened to talk about birth control…however, they are doing the same with this issue. How are three white males qualified to talk about this? Why didn’t they invite someone on who was more versed in why this might be at least racially insensitive? Hello? Sarah Baartman anyone?
According to popular history, Baartman was born in 1789 in the Gamtoos Valley of South Africa. When she was barely in her 20s, she was sold to London by an enterprising Scottish doctor named Alexander Dunlop, accompanied by a showman named Hendrik Cesars. She spent four years in Britain being exhibited. Her treatment caught the attention of British abolitionists, who tried to rescue her, but she claimed that she had come to London on her own accord.
Baartman lived on in poverty, and died in Paris of illness in December 1815. After her death, Cuvier dissected her body, then displayed her remains. For more than a century and a half, visitors to the “Museum of Man” in Paris could view her brain and skeleton until she was peacefully laid to rest.
This is a good film that shows us the reality of the colonialism out of africa. The true dehumanization of a person. How different is it of the things that we do our days?? Differentes ways, more sutil, but the same essence.
Basically the era where being thicker than a midget was a crime just because Africans happen to be thick. Sarah (Saartije) Baartman was a Khoisan (South African) woman who performed under the name “Hottentot Venus” in 19th century England and France. She is the original video vixen: discovered at home in South Africa during her late teens, she was offered money and fame in Europe as a singer and dancer. Little did she know that she would be exploited and put on display for everyone to gaze at her large butt, long clitoris/labia, small waist, big breast and kinky hair– all traits that are very common amongst Khoisan women. As her shows attracted more fans, she was forced against her will to have sex with men AND WOMEN who gave enough money to her exploiters. Sarah got none of the money, as she was once promised. After her act got old, she was forced into prostitution, where she died of std’s and alcoholism. The obsession with Saartije lasted after her death as well. For more than 100 years, visitors and “scientist” were able to examine her dissected body parts in Paris museums. The 19th century shapewear, the “bustle” was inspired by her in order to give european women her unique physique. Yes, an old school booty pop. On behalf of Nelson Mandela’s request, Paris returned Saartije’s remains to South Africa in 2002. Black men, it’s time that you start respecting the black woman’s body, because this act of objectifying it was taught to you. #sarahbaartman