Frances Wilson

The Allure of Otherness

The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman, Born 1789 – Buried 2002


Bloomsbury 256pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Venus, Roman goddess of love, was born in the sea and came to earth floating on a scallop shell. The Hottentot Venus, otherwise known as Saartjie Baartman, was born in the Gamtoos River Valley in South Africa, and came to England as a stowaway. She was taken – along with a massive and stinking giraffe skin – by a British military doctor called Alexander Dunlop and his South African servant, Hendrik Cesars. Together, the men saw the potential of exhibiting Saartjie’s prominent buttocks and extended labia in a freak-show. 

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