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Saartije Baartman
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Slave
    (circa 1789-December 29, 1815)
    Born in South Africa
    Birth name is unknown
    First name translates as 'Little Sarah'
    Member of the Khoisan ethnic group
    Slave owned by Dutch farmers near Cape Town
    Exhibited in London and Paris as the 'Hottentot Venus' (1810-15)
    After her death, her skeleton, brain and genitalia were preserved and displayed at the Musee de l'Homme until 1974
    Remains laid to rest in the Gamtoos River Valley of South Africa (August 9, 2002)
    The Cape Colony governor who approved her travel to Europe regretted it after fully learning the purpose of the trip.
    She was exhibited as a freak of nature.
    She was examined by European doctors and scientists who concluded (surprise!) that she was evidence of the superiority of the white race.
    After the crowds of sightseers dropped off, she turned to prostitution and heavy drinking.
    The French dragged their feet on a request by Nelson Mandela for the return of her remains for eight years (1994-2002), apparently out of fear that giving in would open the door for other countries to demand the return of their artifacts from French museums.
    She was orphaned when her parents were killed in a commando raid by Dutch settlers.
    She was promised half the profits from the London shows.
    Instead, when her British run ended, she was sold off to a French animal trainer and exhibited under even worse conditions.
    French zoologist Frederic Cuvier interviewed her and said she was an intelligent woman with an excellent memory who spoke Dutch fluently.
    When her remains were returned to South Africa, French Research Minister Roger-Gerard Schwartzberg said, 'After suffering so much offense and humiliation, Saartije Baartman will have her dignity restored. She will find justice and peace.'
    A shelter for women and children survivors of domestic violence in South Africa was named after her (1999).

Credit: C. Fishel


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