Hottentot Venus Project

Hottentot-Venus Project is an inter-cultural foundation committed dismantling prejudice and erasing stigma by bringing together the international language of the arts and media to support global peace...

Location: Modena Italy
Members: 34
Latest Activity: May 26, 2011

The True Story of Hottentot Venus.

If Africa has anything to teach, it is the lessons about the essence of living: this collection is a tribute to such lessons learnt growing up amid the sensual textures and colours that shaped my life there. Of these, those which have taken deepest root can be traced back to the impact of colonialism and the congruent human capacity for cruelty and dehumanisation. The rarity of tolerance and compassion is embedded for me in the story of Africa's oldest indigenous tribe. The Khoikhoi, KhoiSan, the San, the Basawra, the Bushman, are names given to a group of hunter-gatherers whose gentle manner and ancient ways of life have been all but eradicated. Two hundred years illustrates just how little democracy and the notion of human rights has changed what is still an essentially racist sense of superiority. The story of Hottentot Venus tells their story too.

It begins with the birth if a San girl in 1789. As a young woman she is sold to a Cape Ducthc farmer Hendrik Cezar. While in his employ the young girl captivates the attention of a young British ship's doctor Dr William Dunlop and she is sold to him. Convinced by him that fortune lay in her exhibiting her extraordinary features across Europe, she left the Cape of Good Hope with him and arrived in London in 1810.

Steattopygia describes a physical condition by which the female buttocks and genitals are considerably enlarged. It was the kind of black sexual erotica that attracted huge public attention. All of twenty years of age, this young woman found herself on public display. She created a sensation. People flocked to see her weird nakedness and many caricatures of her were published in journals of the day.
In 1814, she was sol to a french circus owner. In Paris she became the toast of the aristocracy who would have her on private display at society balls and soon academia, keen to substantiate pre-Darwinist theories of race, took ''scientific'' interest in her. Even Napoleon's Surgeon-General, Georges Cuvier summoned her for inspection. He proclaimed her as exemplary of eternal inferiority. Her humiliation was complete after her death in 1816, at the age of just 26, when Cuvier dissected her corpse, removed her genitals and her brain and presented them to a gathering of men of science at the French Academy, proclaiming:
" I have the honour to present to the Academy, the genital organs of this, my Hottentot Venus."

A plaster cast of her physique was displayed at the Museé de l'Homme in Paris from then on until 1981. Her skeletal remains were eventually returned to South Africa in January 2002, after years of negotiations by Melson Mandela for her proper burial. At the service ex president Mbeki said that her story... " is the loss of our ancient freedom... it is the story of our reduction to the status of objects that could be owned, used and disposed of by others...."

The irony of this lies in the very treatment of the remaining Khoi tribe under post apartheid legislation which has marginalised them more than everand they are regarded as bordering on extinction.
As if to save them from a dimmer fate, three south African businessmen opened a resort on what is histroically speaking khoi land, Kagga Kamma. This is today, a luxury resort for foreign tourists who wish to experience the 'original San lifestyle'. In the early '90's the San tribe was invited to work at Kagga Kamma. the invitation was accepted in the belief that this was an opportunity of reclaiming an identity and a way of life which had been legislatively denied them for so long by the nationalist apartheid government. In reality they became and remain modern day 'slaves': they are the 'centrepiece experience' of a visit to this resort... more aptly described as a bushman theme park. They are expected to appear before tourists each day in traditional dress (which means essentially naked save for leather thongs covering genitalia , and re-enact hunting dancing and other lifestyle rituals.
I saw this on film and watched horrified as young and old San women were humiliatingly asked to pose with German tourists while having to allow them to touch and fondle them physically. Tips for such acquiescences were made to the women in packets of crisps and cans of coke....

In the two hundred years since the tragic fate of the young girl known to the world as Hottentot Venus, nothing of her story had taught us about dignity. She did and does have a name....Sara Baartman.
Her story symbolises the worst in man and today, this cycle continues. The Hottentot Venus Project is about continuing the message of her story and redressing it and in doing so to honour an ancient gentle tribe who refuse to go silently into that good night...

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Comment by ABED MALHAS on May 26, 2011 at 6:06pm


dear friend my lady   I am honored 2 ,TK U 4 UR positive energy ,support , LOVE 2 ART , children ,humanity & CREATION ,


let US Enhance, Tolerance, Cooperation, Understanding, Acceptance, World Peace ,Confidence ,,Recognition ,Human Rights ,Cultural Enrichment ,Positive Globalization - Love & Help the less fortunate - Love & Protect the Environment;

METHOD CASA is initiating six GLOBAL NEW concepts;

- ART OLYMPIC ( equivalent 2 Sport Olympic )



- CASA ( care and share art ) GLOBAL TOURING EXH.



please inform the leaders of  UR country  , children; students; schools; academics; artists; museum; gallery; art outlets; sponsors; decision maker; celebrity; media; industry; etc.

it will benefit U , them , UR  country & the World
Comment by Farouk Mukhallalati on November 29, 2008 at 10:33pm
I hope you like my Poem

Farouk Mukhallalati 29th November 2008

Let me Love you

Let my words flow
To let your love grow

Let my eyes glaze
To let your eyes glow

Let my hands touch
To let your soul flow

Let my life shine
To let your voice sing

Let my heart beats
To let your lips whisper

Let my life alive
To let your love shine

Let my senses love you
To let your scent smells

Let my feelings float
To let you say I love you
Comment by David Gould on November 21, 2008 at 3:15am
Renee, I had not heard this version of this story before. I can only say that in some ways Sara stands as a potent symbol of the way that man has always treated women...even here in South West Scotland in 2008 women are so often treated as trophies until owned and then as providers of food, babies, homes and gratification. I wish it were different.

The other story within the story is the enslavement of people and trafficking of people across international borders...still rife and repellent. Again one longs to see change.

And yet deeper is the whole vexed question of racial inferiority. We live in a world where we have become experts in the language of separation...we have more words to describe the differences in culture, religion, race, sex, orientation and degree of ability than we do for describing the similarities. Words like heathen, infidel and so forth are among the religious words of separation...we can all think of the abusive words for the others. These are words that belittle, demean and abuse our fellow human beings. We have learnt nothing since the days of Sara.

We must learn a new language of positive reinforcements, encouragements and supports for each other. We must become conversant with those qualities that put us on an equal footing with each other while celebrating our all new languages it is hard to start with as we struggle with syntax...but we will become fluent with practice and love. Then and only then will the sad story of our treatment of all the Saras since the Hottentot Venus begin to change.
Comment by Farouk Mukhallalati on November 20, 2008 at 6:17pm
Dear Renee

Thank you for inviting me to this group where everyone work for better life peacefully and free himself from prejudice ,which only add misery to our global human relationship,
Comment by Van on November 17, 2008 at 2:41am
Thank You Renee for the invite. I love these groups for I learn something everytime I sign on. For example I wondered at the picture on the invite. Then reading through the comments I learned about the goddess(thank you Imelda).
So as much is our cultures, we can sit willingly ignorant of other cultures or we can seek and learn. As in Davids Poem, We are One!
Comment by Dani Marael on November 16, 2008 at 11:11pm
We are all ONE - we all have one common language and this is our love.
Thank you Renee for creating this group, it is a honour to be with you and to keep on serving bringing heaven on earth.
With infinite love
Comment by David Gould on November 16, 2008 at 10:30pm
Though we are many, We are ONE

From every corner of the globe
Talking all of our fabulous tongues,
From every walk of life we come
From East, West, North and South
From every direction we come
To join together as One
Though we are many, we are ONE

Our cultures and cosmologies differ
Our customs, habits and rituals differ
Our clothes, jewellery and food differ
Our homes, hair and make up differ
And yet for all these many differences
We are the same, our cause is One
Though we are many, we are ONE

The way we pray, and where we pray
The words we use and direction we face
The gifts we bring and we receive
All may seem different to the casual eye
And yet there can be but one Creator
Whom we have all learnt to serve
Though we are many, we are One

Our diversity brings many bright hues
To this our land of green and grey
Here our aim is wide inclusiveness
Rather than other’s narrow exclusivity
For to include is to honour and love
To accept, welcome and to receive
Though we are many, we are ONE

Today, our hands are joined
Our thoughts, joys and sorrows joined
Our hopes and our wishes are joined
Our friendships and families are joined
For we come together as one
To learn from each other as one
Though we are many, we are ONE

Written for the Culture Bazaar 2008 By David Gould ©

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