The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman Born 1789 - Buried 2002 by Rachel Holmes
Jonathan Ball Publishers (March 20, 2007)
Soft Cover, 256 pages
Saartjie Baartman was twenty-one years old when she was taken from her native South Africa and shipped to London. Within weeks, the striking African beauty had made the headlines and become the talk of the social season of 1810, hailed as 'The Hottentot Venus' for her exquisite physique (not least her shapely and irresistible bottom) and suggestive semi-nude dance. As her fame spread to Paris, Saartjie became a lightning rod for late-Georgian and Napoleonic attitudes toward sex and race, fashion and body image, exploitation and colonialism, prurience and science. But celebrity brought unexpected consequences. Abolitionists initiated a High Court lawsuit to win Saartjie's freedom that electrified the English public. In Paris, a team of scientists subjected her to a humiliating ordeal as they probed the mystery of her sexual allure. Stared at, stripped, pinched, painted, worshiped and ridiculed, Saartjie came to symbolise the erotic obsession at the heart of colonialism. But behind the costumes, caricatures and the glare of publicity, this young Khoisan woman was a real person beginning to understand the true nature of her fate. Nearly two centuries after her death, Saartjie made headlines once again as Nelson Mandela launched an international campaign to have her remains returned to the land of her birth. In this scintillating, vividly written and meticulously researched book, published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain and its dominions, Rachel Holmes for the first time traces the full arc of Saartjie's extraordinary life and death - a story that still resonates today.