“I Wanna Love Something Wild”: A Reading of Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus



The story of Sarah Baartman, a Khoisan woman brought to Europe in 1810 to confirm the racial inferiority of her people,1 is emblematic of how colonial relations of dominance can be reproduced independently of contexts of political and territorial occupation. Within the very heart of Western civilization, her body became the equivalent of a far away land to conquer and rule, conveniently transformed by the “cartographers” of the race into a morbidly detailed “map” of otherness. Being reduced to a mere assembly of parts, Baartman’s body was transformed into a site of inscription for the values of the dominating culture. The colonization of her body naturally resulted in the creation of a colonized corpus, “body” of literature, which ranged from caricatures, to scientific writings, to ballads and vaudevilles. It is through this heterogeneous ensemble of texts that the image of the “Hottentot Venus” was cemented in the European collective imagination, in a way that made her “other” and yet “entirely knowable and visible” (Bhabha 1994, 71).


Black Woman Sexual Desire Mere Assembly Colonial Relation Heterogeneous Ensemble 
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© Natasha Gordon-Chipembere 2011

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