This woman has a name, and her short life trajectory is a clear history of the shameless and predatory racism of the past, which is now tried not to be remembered in the “civilized” states of the West.
Her name was Sarah Bartman, and she was the first and perhaps most famous victim of that shameful phenomenon when people from countries that would later be known as the “Third World” were forcibly or tricked into European capitals. To display them to the public like wild animals in a zoo.
A member of the Hottentot tribe of South Africa, Sarah was born in 1789, the same year the revolution took place in France, vowing to bring “liberty, equality and fraternity” to the peoples of the world. But she certainly not African. They fell under the lead heel of the colonialists and were subjected to cruel exploitation. Her life began with the most terrible loss. The parents were killed by the Dutch conquerors who were seeking to expand their possessions in the south of the Black Continent. After that, Sarah, who was lucky to still be alive, fell into slavery and ended up in a wealthy Boer farming family living in the area of what is now Cape Town. She had all the hard work in the house and in the fields.
It must be assumed that the girl would have shared the fate of tens of thousands of tribesmen, whom the white knights treated like cattle, if not for one event. A relative, retired military doctor William Dunlop, came to his owners from England. As a general rule, his trips to distant lands pursued a very specific objective, and this is the search for exotic animals for European beasts.
But this time, Sarah caught his eye and was enchanted by his anatomical features. The fact is that the girl had such exaggeratedly large buttocks, about two meters in circumference, that the vaunted underbust of the American ‘star’ Kim Kardashian is nothing more than a pathetic resemblance in comparison.
The Englishman immediately noticed that the girl could warm her hands well. With all his eloquence, he began to persuade farmers to sell the “curious specimen” of hers for London. Cape Town landowners eventually agreed to part ways with one of the dozens of African women who worked on their plantations. For the sake of formality, a contract was even drawn up, which, according to local regulations, was also presented to Sarah Barman, promising a “beautiful life” in a foreign land. It is true that the document was written in English, inaccessible to an illiterate girl who spoke her own dialect, and also in Dutch to some extent.
So, in September 1810, Sarah ended up in Foggy Albion. Needless to say, Dunlop, having developed a storm of activity, put on a widely publicized sideshow show of an African with abnormally large hips. In the very center of London, on Piccadilly Street, he rented a spacious hall and throughout the city posted advertisements with the following content: “Hottentot Venus! Newcomer from the African depths! Unbelievable phenomenon! Admission for two shillings.”
The town fell into an unusual performance. Half-naked, or even fully nude, Sarah was put in a cage and then, like some sort of animal-like creature, they were released onto the stage. The audience booed, shouted obscenities, and those who paid the cashier a few coins more than what was due were allowed to use sticks, pricking the girl’s buttocks and other open places.
A disgusting spectacle brought huge profits to a retired surgeon, but a huge scandal soon broke out. The fact is that three years earlier a law was passed in England that prohibited the slave trade. Created around the same time, the African Association, which fought against the shameful phenomenon, sued William Dunlop. True, it was not possible to put him in a corner: the surgeon provided the contract signed by the deceived Sarah, and in the end, the vaunted English justice left everything as it was. However, the trickster felt that he had fully developed the “African resource” in England and sold the room to a French circus performer, an animal trainer named Reo.
So Sarah ended up in Paris, where her torment continued. The Frenchman turned out to be tougher, ruder and greedy. Occasionally, the girl would be taken out into the public wearing a necklace, and sometimes circus animals, including baby rhinos, would be placed in the arena next to her for added effect.
But that is not all. Monsieur Reaud gave local zoologists the opportunity to examine the “Hotentot Venus” for a determined bribe. It was then that local “luminaries” came to the conclusion that it could represent some kind of “missing link” between primates and humans. Then, the professor of comparative anatomy Georges Cuvier, recognizing some of the intellectual abilities of an African woman, based on racist prejudices, compared Sarah’s ears with the ears of an orangutan and also attributed the liveliness of the character to the “inheritance of the monkeys”. His colleague Etienne Saint-Hilaire, in turn, compared the girl’s buttocks with those that characterize baboon monkeys.
In France, Sarah Bartman lived less than a year and a half, interest in her began to wane, she became addicted to alcohol, which the circus artist supplied her with. Finding herself without funds, the African was forced into prostitution, she soon fell ill and died in December 1815.
The body went to Georges Cuvier. It was he who dismembered it, dissected it, and later the remains of Sarah Bartman ended up in the museum in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Only after the racist regime in South Africa fell did Nelson Mandela, who became president in 1994, demand that the remains of Black Venus be returned to their homeland. The French authorities resisted for a long time, and only eight years later they gave their consent. Sarah Bartman was buried on a secluded hill near the South African town of Hankey.