Sara Baartman

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Sara Baartman (c1770s-1815) was a Khoi-Khoi woman, who was displayed as a performer in so-called freak shows in Britain and Europe.

Also known as Sarah Baartman, Saartjie Baartman or the Hottentot Venus, the name under which she was displayed in Europe.


Born sometime in the period 1770s–1789 near the Gamtoos River, Eastern Cape, Dutch Cape Colony.

She became celebrated at the time, despite her demeaning life (see the Sources listed below), and has since become a significant Griqua and Khoi-Khoi icon. Her story has also served as a potent political metaphor over the years.

She died in Paris, France in 1815.

She has had her dignity restored in death when her remains were returned from Europe and buried in the Eastern Cape on August 9 2002. This was only achieved after the Griqua people launched a campaign in 1995 to get back her remains. Her remains are now interred at Vergaderingskop, Hankey, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Cultural role

A number of literary works, plays and performance pieces have been based on her life, including:

Hottentot Venus and Other Poems, a collection of poems by Stephen Gray (R. Collings, 1979).

Venus[1], a play by Suzan-Lori Parks[2] (1996)

Sarah by Braam van der Vyver.

Kom terug, Saartjie (“Come back Saartjie”) a play by Hans Pienaar (2005).

Cargo: Precious a play by Sylvaine Strike (2014).

Ons is Almal Freaks Hier (2018).

Venus vs Modernity, a play by Lebo Mashile (2019).


G.J. van Niekerk. 2007. The Case of the Hottentot Venus: An exercise in legal history, in Fundamina (2007: 13-2)[3]