DID YOU KNOW? Heartbreaking Story of ‘Big Booty’ African Slave, Sara Baartman Who was Abused by Europeans and Used as a Circus Animal (Photo)

On 29 October 1810, Saartjie “Sara” Baartman, a nineteen year old Khoisan woman signed a contract to be taken from Cape Town to London to be exhibited for entertainment purposes. Though she was illiterate, history allegedly claims she signed the contract with an English ship surgeon named William Dunlop who was a friend to Pieter Willem Cezar and Hendrik Cezar. Pieter Willem Cezar had bought Sara Baartman as a slave at sixteen and she worked for Pieter’s brother, Hendrik. It was here that she was named Saartjie, the Dutch form of Sara.

The history of colonialism was so unfair to her that she was stripped of her identity and her bodily integrity. Her story is the full representation of the evils of a hybrid of colonialism, slavery, racism and s..xism

The Europeans even disrespected her humanity to the extent of displaying her brain, skeleton and sexual organs in a Paris museum until 1974. She only got a dignified burial almost two centuries after her death, in 2002.

The woman who lost everything…even her name

Sara Baartman was born to a Gonaquasub group of the KhoiKhoi in 1789 at the Gamtoos River which is found in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Her first major loss was that of her mother who died when Sara was just two and her father, a cattle driver died when she reached adolescence. She got married to a Khoikhoi drummer and had a child together. The child died soon after.

Baartman was first displayed in Piccadilly where descriptions of her treatment reported how she was exhibited on a “stage two feet high, along which she was led by her keeper and exhibited like a wild beast, being obliged to walk, stand or sit as he ordered”.
The Guardian rightly says, “The crowd viewed her as little different from an animal.” Like an animal, she was sold four years later to Paris where she was under the control of a wild animal exhibitor in a travelling circus. That she was now a part of his “show animals” leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It is in Paris that Napoleon’s surgeon, George Cuvier saw her and developed a “scientific interest”.
His idea of science was proving the superiority of the white people. In fact, he described Sara’s movements as having “something brusque and capricious about them that recalled those of a monkey”.

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