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The Life and Times of Sara Baartman

The Life and Times of Sara Baartman

When 20 year old Sara Baartman got on a boat that was to take her from Cape Town to London in 1810, she could not have known that she would would never see her home again. Nor, as she stood on the deck and saw her homeland disappear behind her could she have known that she would become the icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality for the next 100 years.

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SARA BAARTMAN is the fascinating story of this Khoi Khoi woman who was taken from South Africa, and then exhibited as a freak across Britain. The image and idea of 'The Hottentot Venus' swept through British popular culture. A court battle waged by abolitionists to free her from her exhibitors failed.

In 1814 she was taken to France, and became the object of scientific and medical research that formed the bedrock of European ideas about black female sexuality. She died the next year. But even after her death, Sara Baartman remained an object of imperialist scientific investigation. In the name of Science, her sexual organs and brain were displayed in the Musee de l'Homme in Paris until as recently as 1985.

Using historical drawings, cartoons, legal documents, and interviews with noted cultural historians and anthropologists, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SARA BAARTMAN deconstructs the social, political, scientific and philosophical assumptions which transformed one young African woman into a representation of savage sexuality and racial inferiority.

A telling and quite powerful film. It would be very appropriate for any class in the history of racism or colonial history.'-American Historical Review

'An excellent film... I would recommend that it be made a part of the video library of African, African-American and Women's Studies programs. It is valuable for scholarly purposes because the issues of colonialism, racism, enslavement, scientific racism, and beauty standards are covered here in the story of Sara Baartman, the Hottentot Venus.'-Dr. Miriam Ma'at-Ka-Re Monges, California State University, for H-AfriLitCine

'Poignant, mesmerizing and informative...'-Neil Parsons, University of Botswana for H-SAfrica

'The film attempts to change ways of thinking, to prevent the propagation of discrimination... it persuades people to behave in a democratic manner, and aims to produce new responses to racism: resistance instead of acceptance.'-African Media Project

'Excellent...An important film that not only portrays the tragic life of an African woman, but it will force the viewer to consider many larger issues related to the treatment and perception of Blacks.'-Anthropology Review Database


Main credits

Maseko, Zola (Director)
Gavshon, Harriet (Producer)
Brooks, Philip (Producer)
Docin-Julien, Christian (Screenwriter)
Mohamed, Pops (Composer)

Other credits

Narration written by Christian Docin-Julien; camera, Giulio Biccari; editor, Lise Beaulieu; original music composed by Pops Mohamed, performed by Pops Mohamed and Gloria Bosman.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

African Studies
Cultural Anthropology
Cultural Studies
French History
History (World)
History of Science
Museum Studies
Race and racism
South Africa
Women's Studies


Saartjie; Sara; Baartman; Hottentot; Venus; African Studies; women's studies; representation; postmodern; race; Europe; human sexuality; anthropology; racism; imperialism; science; Zola Maseko; documentary; film; video; DVD; "The Life and Times of Sara Baartman"; Icarus Films;

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