Earlier this summer I saw a movie that still haunts my dreams. Titled Black Venus (Venus Noire) it tells the real-life story of a black woman born circa 1770 who was turned into a sideshow attraction known as ‘The Hottentot Venus’.
Born Sarah ‘Saartjie’ Baartman in South Africa, she was taken to Europe during the early 19th century and was exploited and exhibited as a part-human, part-animal attraction for both entertainment and educational purposes. And when her “act” lost appeal, she was tossed out on the streets like garbage and eventually turned to prostitution. She subsequently died of pneumonia and various venereal diseases.
As you can see from the movie trailer, it was all very much a sad spectacle. She was routinely ogled, dehumanised and degraded all in the name of profit. And when the end came, she couldn’t rest peacefully. A plaster mould of of her body, along with her brains and genitals were cut out and put on display at a Paris museum. Only in 1994 were they returned. This all makes me want to go back in time and bring retribution on those that did this to her and so many others.
No one then and no one now should have to suffer and endure like she did. Granted she was defiant in many ways, her life was filled with such heartbreaking sadness and the visuals of her suffering will unfortunately continue to haunt me for some time.