Who is Sara Baartman?

Who is Sarah Baartman? What was the secret of her? Was woman's body buried at home place or she remained in the country of her tormentors? Find out more in this article.

who is sara baartman

One of the wildest stories: life of Sara Baartman

Not many people know the true story of her. So, who is Sara Baartman? Saarti or Sara Baartman is a woman from the African nation Hottentot, brought back to Europe from South Africa at the beginning of the XIX century. She was shown to the public out of curiosity because of her large protruding buttocks and pronounced genitals. The practice of creation of human zoos originates with this show. They showed people of ‘non-European’ races in their ‘natural’ form. The advertising leaflets usually called Sara Baartman the ‘Hottentot Venus’.

sara baartman


There are some Sarah Baartman images but much fewer facts about her life. The exact date of birth and birth name of Saarti Baartman is unknown. She was born in a Hottentot family named Gampus near the river, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. She was captured by the whites in a raid of the Boer commandos. They killed her parents and enslaved her. She was given the name of Sara, but everyone called her diminutive form ‘Saarti’. By the way, this name can simultaneously be used as for naming a pet, and as a contemptuous one. She was a slave in the family of rich farmers the Boers in Cape Town. The brother of the host invited her to go to England, saying that she would be rich there. The governor of the colony gave his consent to the trip but later regretted it after learning about the real reasons for it.

In 1810, Saarti was brought to London and was shown for the money in the nude to townspeople. They were attracted with the unusual peculiarities for Europeans of her body structure. She had bulging buttocks and elongated labia. It is believed that she never showed it publicly, and on arrival in London, she was wearing tight-fitting clothes. Sarah Baartman picture can be found easily on the Internet.

In England, it soon caused a scandal. The abolitionist society ‘African Association’ petitioned for her release. Court of Queen's Bench allowed the prosecutor to give her honest testimony. Baartman was questioned at the trial in the Dutch language, which she knew well. She showed that exhibited without any coercion and with the understanding that she will receive the profits. However, the veracity of this testimony was questionable. In fact, she received almost nothing from the show. She was often shown in a cage like a wild animal and forced to dance for jailers. On December 1, 1811, Saarti Baartman was baptized in the Cathedral of Manchester.

sarah baartman history

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Baartman was eventually not released but was sold to the man. After almost four years in London, she was bought by a Frenchman. He was the trainer of animals. He moved to France, where in the same form she was exhibited in Paris. For 15 months, she lived in much harsher conditions than in England. In Paris, scientists attended her, including Georges Cuvier. At that time, he led the menagerie at the National Museum of Natural History. Once in Paris, the public lost interest in her paid shows, she became addicted to alcohol and began to earn with the prostitution. It was during her not so long stay in France, she became the character of the cartoons and even comic performances. Not so long ago in Swedish museum of Modern Art was created the Sarah Baartman cake in the form of the woman screaming because of pain. This ‘joke’, however, wasn’t appreciated by many critics.

On December 29, 1815, Saarti Baartman died from an unknown inflammatory disease. Presumably from smallpox, but perhaps it was syphilis and pneumonia.

sarah baartman images


Body after death has undergone first opening in 1816. It has been studied by Georges Cuvier, leaving notes for her in "Memoirs of the Museum of Natural History" in 1817. He talked about her great memory and fluency in the Dutch language. Her skeleton, the brain, and sex organs in alcoholized form were exhibited at the Paris Museum of Man. The skeleton was exhibited publicly for two more years. In the XIX century, it remains on display during the lectures on anthropology as ‘proof’ of how close negros are to monkeys (in particular, to the orangutans). Particular requirements for the return of the remnants to her home began to appear at the early 1940s. President Nelson Mandela officially asked the French government to return the remnants to her home. After much wrangling and discussion, France has given its consent. Remains of Saarti Baartman were returned to South Africa and buried more than 200 years after her birth. Around her grave, there is a large plaque with lines of the poem created in her honor. Diana Ferrus wrote it. In contemporary South Africa, a number of objects are named in her honor. The dramatic fate of Saarti Baartman is dedicated to the feature film of the French director. The film based on Sarah Baartman history is called ‘Black Venus’.


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