Sara Baartman, a South African Slave: A discussion on gender and representation

Natasha Gordon-Chipembere, PhD

Sara Baartman was a Khoisan woman from South Africa who, in 1810, was taken (read: stolen) to London by her Dutch owners and put on display in Piccadilly Circus because of her “hyper-sexualized” body. She was then taken in 1814 to Paris where she died in 1815.

“In France, Sara was dissected by Napoleon’s surgeon, George Cuvier, and her body parts were put in jars and kept on display in the Musee de l’Homme until the late 1970s.  Her body was finally returned to South Africa and given a national funeral in August 2002. In South Africa, she is considered the “mother of the nation.”

Sara Baartman’s story is critical to understand because her treatment as an African woman set into place a concrete trajectory on how women of color were perceived and represented in media, literature and popular discourse/culture. We continue to see the impact of her legacy with examples such as Michele Obama and Nikki Minaj.

Monday, 9 March

Hour: 12-1:15   

Venue: Council Room                     

Presentation and Discussion