New work gives Sarah Baartman a voice as both survivor and Venus
Lebo Mashile turns the story on its head with Design Indaba performances
Sarah Baartman occupies a significant space in SA’s history due to the various political entry points through which her life story can be contemplated. Slavery, colonialism, patriarchy, feminism, sexuality and the exploitation and exoticisation of the black female body — these are issues that are more pertinent now, with the exposure of the long-standing war on women’s bodies at its peak. A Khoi woman, Baartman was part of a freak show in 19th century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus. She was displayed in colonial human zoos. When she died her body was dissected and displayed in jars at the Museum of Man in Paris. Several artists have tackled the Baartman story as a form of activism and social commentary, such as choreographer and performance artist Nelisiwe Xaba’s They Look At Me and playwright/director Napo Masheane’s My Bum Is Genetic, Deal With It. That Baartman’s own voice is missing from most of her story has left some artists with a chance to reimagine her story. In Carg...
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