Saartje (Sarah) Baartman

Saartje (Sarah) Baartman

(1770s – 29th December 1815)

  • She was born in the Gamtoos valley in the eastern part of the cape Colony (Southern Africa). She spent her childhood and teenage years on a settler farm. She was from a tribe called Khoi and was called a KhoiKhoi woman. She later moved to Cape Town and became a washerwoman and a nursemaid for a free black man called Peter Cesars and for a Dutch man. Cape town at that time was under the British rule.
  • In Cesars house she lived in conditions similar to slaves in Cape Town. She had two children who died as babies. She had a relationship with a European soldier but the relationship ended when his regiment left Cape Town.
  • She was convinced to travel by a surgeon who provided showmen to Britain. She refused initially but later was made to go by Hendrik Cesars, a man she worked for.
  • She lived in Duke Street St James, the most expensive part of London at that time. She lived with the Surgeon and Hendrik Cesar. She was 22 and a 4 ft. 10. She was called a “Hottentot” which was a name used for KhoiKhoi women but is seen as an offensive word today. She was displayed as a freak show and never allowed herself to be seen nude.
  • This occurred just a few years after the Slave Trade act of 1807, so protesters saw her as being enslaved. Hendrik Cesars protested that this was not the case and that she came on her own freewill. The case was taken to court but was dismissed within a few hours. The court case increased the popularity of the exhibitions.
  • She was taken to France and sold to an animal trainer, in France the exhibitions became entangled with scientific racism. She was treated like an animal, at some point a Collar was placed around her neck. She was miserable and extremely poor.
  • She died at 26 from an inflammatory ailment. At the time of her death she spoke her native tongue, fluent Dutch and a bit of English and French. She was said to be intelligent with a very good memory. An autopsy was carried out on her and some of her parts were taken out.
  • Nelson Mandela called for her remains to be brought home in 1994 and France agreed to the request in 2002 and her remains were kept in her body. She became an icon and great symbol in South Africa.


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17 thoughts on “Saartje (Sarah) Baartman

  1. Rikki Singh

    nice share

  2. Interesting read! I needed a little history read up today.


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