n Historia - Grandmother-martyr-heroine : placing Sara Baartman in South African post-apartheid foundational mythology

Volume 56, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



In July 1810, a Gonaqua woman bearing the colonial name Sara Baartman, arrived in England after a journey that brought her to Europe from her native southern Africa. After spending five years on display on European stages in England and France as the "Hottentot Venus", Sara passed away at the end of 1815 in Paris. In January 1816, one of Europe's foremost scientists, Georges Cuvier, dissected the remains of Sara Baartman. Cuvier concluded in his study published in 1817 in the Histoire naturelle des mammiferes - a volume about the studies of mammals in which Baartman was the only human represented - that the "Hottentot" body was more closely related to the great apes than to the human species. A cast was made of Baartman's body; her skeleton, genitals and brain were removed and preserved and subsequently displayed at the Musée de l'Homme in Paris until the 1970s.

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