The Saartjie project

You might or might not know who Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman was depending on your geographical location but I’m in a good mood so I’ll tell my non S-African readers about her. Sarah was a Khoisan( I apologize for using the term) born in the eastern cape of South-Africa in the late 17th century, she was orphaned after a commando raid and became a slave to dutch farmers near Cape Town. The brother of her owner convinced her to move with him to Great Britain, promising her wealth and all types of shit but when she got there she was exhibited around Britain forced to forced to entertain people by gyrating her buttocks nude and showing to Europeans what were thought of as highly unusual bodily features. Due to her steatopygia, she had large buttocks; in addition, she had sinus pudoris, otherwise known as the tablier (the French word for “apron”) or “curtain of shame”, After the slave trade was abolished her owners moved to France where she basically did the same thing until her death. her death didn’t free her from being treated like an animal ’cause when she died her skeleton, brain and genitals were displayed on a French museum ’til 1974 when they were removed from public view and stored out of sight; A molded casting was still shown for the following two years. Her remains remained a property of France up until 2002 when The French decided to send her remains to her place of birth where she was buried. Things haven’t changed since then if you think about people in general are still obsessed with the female buttocks, how many times have you heard the term “bootylicious” or “ATM( African trade mark)”? * sigh*

To celebrate her story, explore humanity’s fascination with the black female form a collective in the US of A have created The saartjie projectTM They hold theatrical production, as a call to action, infusing song, dance, visual art and spoken word into a dramatic set of stories that travel from the life and times of Sarah Baartman until today. I’m just disappointed that nobody from south-African came up with the idea first. I don’t know much about copyrights and trade marks but the fact that the name Saartjie is part of a registered trade mark doesn’t sit well with me, it reminds me of when Burke International registered the name Rooibos in the US and prevented anyone from using that term there without paying him first.pfft. But personal feelings aside this is great initiative, Best of luck to them.

[ Hat tip DP.com]

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3 thoughts on “The Saartjie project

  1. sigh. what a sad and cruel story. unfortunately, just one of the many from the twisted inheritance of colonialism. the british imperialist antics in india (circa 1850s) were mostly consumed with the muffling of rebellion, mercilessly slaying those who displayed any sign of disloyalty – in the thousands, without trial (hah, TRIAL?), usually over the span of a single night. i once read a piece where a british commander ordered the slaying of hundreds to fall on the same day of Eid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Adha). the older i get, the more i read, it saddens me to think such inhumanity was present on such an institutionalized level just a few generations ago. being a product of post-colonialism, its always a sensitive and heartbreaking topic. a general random point: the dutch colonialist were always more anti-native and anti-inclusive in their administration, as compared to, say, the british colonialists. the british empire at the open of the 20th century changed to a relatively more native-inclusive strategy.heh, sorry for the history lesson.

  2. aquilogy, thank you for the support and perspective! the decision to preserve the name stems from the notion that if you google “black women” all kinds of ridiculous images, articles and websites pop up. if was was an alien (or didnt know any black women) and i looked up “black women” on the web i’d think they were and oversexed one dimensional. luckily we know this isnt the case. in all that we do we work to bring humanity to who saartjie (sara) baartman was…through our own stories and multi-dimensional, paradoxal selves. the preservation of the name is not and will never be about money… in fact we are a volunteer organization and donate portions of our proceeds to organizations serving at risk women. we want people to understand that “the saartjie project” as an entity has core values and beliefs that inform our work and when you see that name anywhere in the world you should expect all those things. Thanks for the love and light and I’d love to add your blog to our blogroll! 🙂 be well.

  3. @Sidrah living in a post-colonial system myself, I can understand why reading about such stuff saddens you, I too become saddened when I read about the atrocities commited by the former imperialists. I’m not really familiar with any Dutch colonies but the british colonies here in Africa never really recovered from the effects of british imperialism( and will probably never will) I think both stratergies were equally detrimental to the natural development of the natives.@Jessica Thanks for visiting my humble little blog, I really think you have a great initiative. Are there any plans to take it globally?

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