Sara Baartman is one of the woman in history pf Africa who have had the most tragic and hardship life story. She was born in 1789 in he Camdeboo valley in the eastern part of the Cape Colony in South Africa. She became motherless when she was two years old and her father, a cattle driver, died when she was an adolescent. She got into domestic service in Cape Town after a Dutch colonist murdered her partner, with whom she had had a baby who died.
After sometime, she had a household job in house of English surgeon William Dunlop and mixed-race entrepreneur Hendrik Cesars. In In October 1810, Sara, with no education 'allegedly signed ' a 'contract' with Hendrik Cesars to travel to England to take part in shows. Apparently, the contract terms were she would travel with Hendrik and Dunlop to England & Ireland to work as a servant, and exhibited for entertainment purposes, she was to receive 'a portion of earnings’ from her exhibitions and be allowed to return to South Africa after 5 years. It was known that, the Cesar families experienced financial woes and it is suspected that they used Sara to make money.
What made Sara an object of fascination was her color and her highly curved body. Through her tragic journey, she was then brought to London where she was displayed to English audience to view her half naked body displayed in a cage that was about a meter and half high. Campaign against slavery in Britain was in motion and as a result, the treatment of Sara was called to question. Her 'employers' Dunlop and Cesar, the were brought to trial but faced no real consequences since a document presented allegedly been signed by Sara and her own testimony which claimed she was not being mistreated. Her ‘contract’ was, however, amended and she became entitled to ‘better conditions’, 'greater profit share' and 'warm clothes' because the court got to know that she was illiterate so the contract could not hold anymore.
In 1814 Hendrik Cesar, took her to Paris where he sold her to a showman Reaux, a man who showcased animals. After being sold to S. Reaux she was maltreated, raped, and impregnated by him. The child was named Okurra Reaux, and the child died at five years of age of an unknown disease. He also exhibited her around Paris and gained financial benefits from the public’s fascination with Sara’s body and began exhibiting her in a cage alongside a baby rhinoceros.
March of 1815, it was concluded that Sara was a link between animals and humans by a commission of zoologists and physiologists after examining and experimenting on her.
After some time, Sara's health declined and died at the age of 26 of unknown causes. Within hours of death, French scientist, Georges Cuvier, was granted permission to dissect her. He paid special attention to her buttocks, private parts and brain. The dissection was done to remove her brain and private parts. Her skeleton, together with her brain and external private parts, were then mounted on a stand for display at a museum in France.
Pres. Nelson Mandela in 1995, requested that the French government return the remains of Sara so she could be laid to rest. The process took eight years, as the French had to draft a carefully worded bill that would not allow other countries to claim treasures taken by the French. Finally on the sixth of March 2002, Sara was brought back home to South Africa. On 9 August 2002, Women’s Day, a public holiday in South Africa, Sara was buried at Hankey in the Eastern Cape Province.
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