“Body” of Evidence: Saartjie Baartman and the Archive



When I first saw her I thought that she was beautiful. No. That is understating it. I thought she was the ideal—ample hips, a generous bosom—the kind of woman I had wanted to be when I was five years old. I saw women like that everywhere: carrying babies on their backs; crossing the street with loads on their heads; sitting in chairs on their verandahs watching the world pass by; laughing at the corner of a dusty road; arguing with husbands at the store— all this while never looking harried or hurried. When I grow up, I thought to myself, I will look like these women and just like them I will be happy in the world. I too will stand under the shade of a jacaranda tree my left arm akimbo, a stick of grass in my mouth, my right hand gesturing to shoo a fly—mistress of all I surveyed. Nothing would make me happier, the five-year-old me thought, than to one day be a woman with ample hips and a generous bosom. To be beautiful. To be a sight to behold.


Racial Alterity Racial Focus Generous Bosom Center Race Frantz Fanon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Pamela Scully and Clifton Crais, Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Yvette Abraham, “Disempowered to Consent,” South African Historical Journal 35 (1996).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Zine Magubane, “Which Bodies Matter? Feminism, Poststructuralism, Race, and the Curious Theoretical Odyssey of the Hottentot Venus,” Gender and Society 15:6 (2001).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Sadiah Qureshi, “Displaying Sara Baartman, The Hottentot Venus,” Science History 17 (2004).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1990).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Laura Callahan, Deciphering Race (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Black Venus (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Natasha Gordon-Chipembere 2011

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations