Sarah was the famous Khoikhoi woman who was exhibited as an oddity in 19th century Europe and stands as a symbol of the inhumane treatment of Africans based on false notions of racial superiority. She was taken to Europe in 1810 and displayed half naked in a cage, where she became an object of fascination due to her large buttocks, skin colour and exoticism. The idea and image of the “Hottentot Venus” (a derogatory and cruel “show”name) captured British popular culture. In France she caught the attention of George Cuvier, who turned her into an object of scientific and medical research. Europeans were at the time obsessed with their superiority and proving other races, particularly Africans, to be inferior and over sexed. Sarah’s physique was used as evidence of this, to the point that Cuvier concluded that she was a link between animals and humans stating that she was more ape-like than human. When she died in 1816 Cuvier continued his brutal exploration and dissected her body, displaying her pickled organs in the Musee de l’Homme (Museum of Man) in Paris for over a century. The inhumane treatment she endured is representative of the suffering, dispossession and loss of dignity of indigenous people, wrought by racial discrimination and a disregard of humanity.
After the end of Apartheid her remains was finally returned home and she was afforded a dignified burial on a hill overlooking the Gamtoos Valley in the Eastern Cape.
With her dignity restored, her grave is a reminder to all to strive towards recognising injustices and work towards the upliftment of human rights, dignity and life. Sarah’s remains were finally repatriated in 2002 and afforded a dignified burial on Vergaderingskop, a hill overlooking the Gamtoos Valley in the Eastern Cape. With her dignity restored, her grave is a reminder to all to strive towards recognizing injustices and work towards the upliftment of human rights, dignity and life.