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 sexism.
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
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