Humiliated South African woman to be finally honoured

March 3rd, 2009 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

Pretoria, March 3 (IANS) Sarah Bartmann, a South African Khoisan woman who was made to exhibit her unusual physical features like her large buttocks to Europeans in roadside shows in the 19th century, will be honoured by having some heritage sites named after her.
The South African government is to open some heritage sites after her name this month that could help the people to remember the icon of oppression and colonialism that systematically stripped Africans of their dignity, BuaNews reported.

Bartmann was born in 1789 in the vicinity of Gamtoos River (now the Eastern Cape) in South Africa and became an orphan in childhood.

A British doctor who found her working as a slave in a British ship in Cape Town persuaded her to travel to Britain where she became the object of racism and exploitation.

Bartmann, who had large buttocks because of steatopygia - a genetic characteristic of the Khoisan people - was forced to entertain people by gyrating her buttocks nude and was subsequently displayed as a scientific curiosity.

She was later moved to Paris where she continued to be exhibited by an animal trainer in degrading displays for public amusement.

After her death, her body landed under the knife of the leading French anatomist of the day, Baron Cuvier. He had her body cast in wax, dissected and her skeleton articulated.

Her genitalia and brain were preserved in a bottle and displayed at the Museum of Mankind in Paris until as recently as 1974.

Only in 1995, a year after the democratic elections, the South African government initiated talks with Paris for her remains to be returned. On Aug 2, 2002, Bartmann’s remains were finally laid to rest at Hankey, the area of her birth. Her grave has been declared a national heritage site.

Her life has become a living example of slavery and oppression and the South African government wants to pay a tribute to the great lady of sacrifice by opening the heritage sites - the Sarah Centre of Remembrance, the Sarah Bartmann Human Rights Memorial and the Khoisan Heritage Route.

These sites will be opened by the Department of Arts and Culture to acknowledge the tribulations and trials of Bartmann and the role that the Khoisan people played in the struggle against colonialism and racism by hosting the series of events.

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