On 29 October 1810, Sara allegedly ‘signed’ a contract with an English ship surgeon named William Dunlop who was also a friend of Cezar and his brother Hendrik. Apparently, the terms of her ‘contract’ were that she would travel with Hendrik Cezar and Dunlop to England and Ireland to work as a domestic servant, and be exhibited for entertainment purposes. She was to receive a ‘portion of earnings’ from her exhibitions and be allowed to return to South Africa after five years. Two reasons make her ‘signing’ appear dubious. The first is that she was illiterate and came from a cultural tradition that did not write or keep records. Secondly, the Cezar families experienced financial woes and it is suspected that they used Sara to earn money.
Sara Baartman’s large buttocks and unusual colouring made her the object of fascination by the colonial Europeans who presumed that they were racially superior. Dunlop wanted Sara to come to London and become an oddity for display. She was taken to London where she was displayed in a building in Piccadilly, a street that was full of various oddities like “the ne plus ultra of hideousness” and “the greatest deformity in the world”. Englishmen and women paid to see Sara’s half naked body displayed in a cage that was about a metre and half high. She became an attraction for people from various parts of Europe.
During her time with Dunlop and Hendrik Cezar, the campaign against slavery in Britain was in full swing and as a result, the treatment of Baartman was called into question. Her “employers” were brought to trial but faced no real consequences. They produced a document that had allegedly been signed by Sara Baartman and her own testimony which claimed that she was not being mistreated. Her ‘contract’ was, however, amended and she became entitled to ‘better conditions’, greater profit share and warm clothes.
After four years in London, in September 1814, she was transported from England to France, and upon arrival Hendrik Cezar sold her to Reaux, a man who showcased animals. He exhibited her around Paris and reaped financial benefits from the public’s fascination with Sara’s body. He began exhibiting her in a cage alongside a baby rhinoceros. Her “trainer” would order her to sit or stand in a similar way that circus animals are ordered. At times Baartman was displayed almost completely naked, wearing little more than a tan loincloth, and she was only allowed that due to her insistence that she cover what was culturally sacred. She was nicknamed “Hottentot Venus”.
Her constant display attracted the attention of George Cuvier, a naturalist. He asked Reaux if he would allow Sara to be studied as a science specimen to which Reaux agreed. As from March 1815 Sara was studied by French anatomists, zoologists and physiologists. Cuvier concluded that she was a link between animals and humans. Thus, Sara was used to help emphasise the stereotype that Africans were oversexed and a lesser race.
Sara Baartman died in 1816 at the age of 26. It is unknown whether she died from alcoholism, smallpox or pneumonia. Cuvier obtained her remains from local police and dissected her body. He made a plaster cast of her body, pickled her brain and genitals and placed them into jars which were placed on display at the Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Man) until 1974. The story of Sara Baartman resurfaced in 1981 when Stephen Jay Gould, a palaeontologist wrote about her story in his book The Mismeasure of Man where he criticised racial science.
Following the African National Congress (ANC)’s victory in the South African elections, President Nelson Mandela requested that the French government return the remains of Sara Baartman so that she could be laid to rest. The process took eight years, as the French had to draft a carefully worded bill that would not allow other countries to claim treasures taken by the French. Finally on the sixth of March 2002, Sara Baartman was brought back home to South Africa where she was buried. On 9 August 2002, Women’s Day, a public holiday in South Africa, Sara was buried at Hankey in the Eastern Cape Province.
*Note: Sources argue over the exact date of Baartman’s birth but most sources mention the year as 1789.
Looking for Oxford College to accomplish your postgraduate degree in the UK, Hurry up! St Edmund Hall is providing Julius Baer St Edmund Hall Scholarship to support your study.
This study program is designed for deserving African students who want to pursue postgraduate degree coursework for the academic year 2020/21.Advertisements
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Good opportunity for African students to get admission in St Edmund Hall.
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St Edmund Hall is the part of the University of Oxford that was founded in 1278. The University has 38 independent colleges, 6 permanent private halls and has a total enrollment of nearly 24,000 students including 11,747 undergraduate and 11,687 postgraduate students.
Why at St Edmund Hall? The college allows you to specialize in your area of interest and gain skills that matter to global employers. Here students will gain high-quality teaching and world-class research facilities. Their bursaries and grants support you throughout your study.
Application Deadline: Varies
- University: St Edmund Hall
- Department: NA
- Course Level: Postgraduate
- Award: £8,000
- Access Mode: Online
- Number of Awards: NA
- Nationality: African Students
- The award can be taken in the UK
- Eligible Countries: Only African students are eligible to apply.
- Acceptable Course or Subjects: Available for postgraduate degree course (one or two years in length) in the following areas; Finance, Economics & Management; Computer Science, Data Service, Science of the Internet & ICT; Wealth Inequality (including Social and Environmental Development). Click here to see the list of subjects and courses that qualify under these criteria.
- Admissible Criteria: To be considered for the grant, applicants must have an undergraduate degree from a recognized university.
How to Apply
- How to Apply: In order to apply for the grant, candidates are required to apply for the postgraduate degree at the university. After that, they can complete the application form.
- Supporting Documents: Personal statement about your academic interests, two letters of recommendations from Princeton faculty who have taught you, official Princeton transcript and two samples of work in the subject area that you wish to study at Oxford must be submitted.
- Admission Requirements: Successful applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher
- Language Requirement: Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
Benefits: The educational program will provide the award amount of £8,000 per year to the high achieving candidates.