Hottentot Venus Essay

Ms. Kimberly Ryan Kirk Book Review #1 Tuesday Feb. 9, 2010 3:30-4:45 Crais Scully, Clifton and Pamela. Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010. Crais and Scully, have meticulously and skillfully pieced together the life and times of Sara or Sartjee Baartman. The Authors have given us insight as to whom Sara Baartman the Gonaqua woman was opposed to the Hottentot Venus that she was worldly famous for. For centuries Sara Baartman has embodied westerner’s ideologies of the primitive, savage, and uncivilized Africans.

The ghost of Sara Baartman will forever haunt history and our present day lives as long as beliefs in racial supremacy and anti-feminist theories are supported by her very existence. Crais and Scully, are both currently professors at Emory University. Clifton Crais received his B. A. from The University of Maryland and his M. A. and Ph. D. from Johns Hopkins. Crais is also the author of The Politics of Evil: Magic, Power and the Political Imagination in South Africa and White Supremacy and Black Resistance in Pre-Industrial South Africa: The Making of the Colonial Order in the Eastern Cape.

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Pamela Scully, is the professor of women’s studies and has a Ph. D. in history from the University of Michigan and is the author of Liberating the Family? Gender and the British Slave Emancipation in Rural Western Cape South Africa. Crais and Scully’s similar interest in African and Women’s studies have produced a well written and descriptive biography of Sara Baartman. Crais and Scully, wanted to depict Baartman differently than previous scholars did at the time of her life. The only importance Baartman had to them was the small period of time she spent in Europe and the few interviews that were probably paraphrased Ms.

Kimberly Ryan Kirk Book Review #1 Tuesday Feb. 9 2010 3:30- 4:45 Crais and Scully said “ Fixing Sara Baartman within the conventional genre of biography raise fundamental questions about how we know what we know and how we write about people whose lives traversed so many geographies and different cultural worlds. ”(Crais Scully 2008 pg. 5) Crais and Scully also stated “This book is about discovery, about what might have happened, and about the extraordinary power of people’s imaginations. It’s also about letting go, another burial of sorts. Crais Scully 2008 pg. 6) Sara Baartman was said to have been born in 1789 but she was really born in the 1770s in a region called the Camdeboo. This was a period when the modern world was taking the region and it inhabitants by storm. When she was a child her parents were living on Baartman’s Fonteyn owned by David Fourie. Later her family moved on to Cornelius Muller’s farm due to the death of David Fourier . While on Muller’s farms both Sara’s parents died shortly after each other leaving Sara and her brothers and sisters to take care of themselves.

After Muller’s death Sara was brought to Cape Town by Pieter Cesars the employee of Jan Michiel Elzer a local and prominent butcher of high society. Sara Baartman would spend ten years in Cape Town as the servant to both Cesars and Elzer also performing duties as a wet nurse. After Jan Michael Elzer’s death Sara moved into Pieter Cesars small house with his wife and children. Sara would not stay at Pieter’s house long, after the death of his wife Pieter sent Sara to live with his brother Hendrik, it is here that Sara’s life would be changed forever.

Economic downturn of the Batavian rule caused Hendrik and his wife Anna to borrow vast amounts of money from a Jacobus Ms. Kimberly Ryan Kirk Book review#1 Tuesday Feb. 9 2010 3:30-4:45 Johannes Vos. Hendrik’s inability to pay Vos back the money he was lended caused Anna and him to think of other ways to make money, and what a better way to do it than exploiting your own slave. Hendriks began showing Sara to the sick sailors. “According to Anna Sara would “show herself” to those who wished to see her”(Crais Scully 2008 pg. 50) It is here that the Hottentot Venus was born.

A military doctor, by the name of Alexander Dunlop makes a contract with Henrik’s to show the Hottentot Venus to the world. Sara Baartman refused to go to Europe without Hendrik, and Hendrik was blackmailed into accepting the contract that did not specify any monetary gain for him or Sara Baartman. Arriving in England Dunlop, Hendrik Sara and the boys from the Slave Lodge lived in a Duke apartment. In England people would pay two shillings to view the Hottentot Venus, they would stare at her and even could get close enough to touch her butt.

Hendrik was the ringmaster encouraging their audiences to come closer and ordering Sara to bend over for the men in the front Rows to examine her better. Sara was always cold and wore little clothing at all. The Hottentot Venus would come across a Zachary Macaulay a leading abolitionist in those days. Macaulay was interested in how the Hottentot Venus managed to get to England and wanted to inquiry if she was a slave in a free country. With Macaulay probing the case went before the Kings Bench. The main Focus was asking Sara did she come to England of her own free will or was she being exploited by the men surrounding her.

At this time Sara Baartman is interviewed one of the few ever recorded. Sara Continued to be viewed for the elite societies in England until she and Ms. Kimberly Ryan Kirk Book review #1 Tuesday Feb 9 2010 3:30-4:45 Dunlop departed for Ireland in April 1812 while there Dunlop died. Sara Baartman Arrived in Paris in 1814 with Henry Taylor . “Parisian newspapers enthusiastically understood Sara Baartman as an ethnographic wonder. ”(Crais Scully 2008 pg. 124) A man named Reaux is responsible for showing Sara to high Parisian society and flaunting her around the local Cafes with a collar around her neck.

Taylor also introduced Sara to Cuvier a leading Scientist of the day. “Cuvier stated that that he wanted to do a detailed comparison of this woman with the lowest race of humans the Negro race and with the highest race of monkey the orangutan. ” (Crais Scully 2008 pg. 136). Cuviers statements paved the way for racial scientist to come up their white supremacy theories. Ten month later Cuvier would be able to get his thorough examination when Baartman died of small Pox. Crais and Scully have given use a descriptive account of the Hottentot Venus at times going into detail about background events that shaped the live of Sara

Baartman. With a lot of information they received it was not complete, so this left the authors to fill in the blanks with their knowledge of the period and times. Crais and Scully gave us the story of the Hottentot Venus broken down into chapter by her locations and her owners making it easy to chronologically keep up with her life even after her death. Crais and Scullies let us know that they went through rigorous work; they said “the journey took us to three continents and researched five countries tracking down relevant records from the 1750s to1816 along with conducting Genealogical studies of her relatives.

They also spoke with people from Port Elizabeth to the small town of Graaff Reinet. Crais and Scully used primary and Ms. Kimberly Ryan Kirk Book review #1 Tuesday Feb. 9 2010 3:30 -4:45 Secondary sources, mainly government documents and printed text from the period such as scientist write ups on the Hottentot Venus.. Crais and Scully have given us not only a biography but they have given use insight to the world in which the Hottentot Venus Sara Baartman lived with political, social, cultural, and the intellectual history that was evolving during this time.

Crais and Scully go into detail of the Napoleonic wars, of the advancement of science through Cuvier writings. The information within this book gave me a better understanding of where many of the prejudices against black women derived. I now understand the Hottentot Venus not as the bridge between the primitive world but as the bridge between all the modern world and it understanding of the origins of life even though she cannot live up to all was claimed to be “primitive”. Sara Baartman’s ghost will live on until we put to rest the ideologies that are attached to her. 1360


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