The dissected and preserved remains of Saartjie Baartman, the so-called “Hottentot Venus“, were flown back to South Africa from France on Thursday, nearly 200 years after the African woman was first put on display in Europe as a sexual freak.
Baartman was born on the Gamtoos River in what is now South Africa in 1789. In 1810, a British ship’s doctor took her to London, after convincing her that she could make a fortune by displaying her body to curious Europeans.
In Britain, she was paraded as a savage around circus sideshows, museums, bars and universities.
There, she was forced to show off her protruding posterior, an anatomical feature of her native Khoisan people (formerly called the Hottentots), and her outsized genitals.
After moving to Paris, Baartman drifted into prostitution and died in poverty in 1816.