Swedes revive ridicule of Black beauty Hottentot Venus

The role of Sara Baartman in world history and herstory

by Paradise Free Jahlove

Recently I was working on an article about Sara Baartman and her role in world history when I heard via the internet about what took place in early April in good ol’ Sweden. While attending a tax-funded party for the Stockholm cultural elite, Swedish Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, a self-proclaimed “anti-racist,” declared the party officially started by slicing a piece of a cake depicting a stereotypical African woman – in the area of the genitalia.

The shocking photos that went viral on the net show several established left-wing members of the Stockholm cultural elite watching and laughing as Minister Liljeroth slices a cake depicting a black African woman with minstrel-esque face. The video has been viewed more than 3 million times.

Liljeroth was invited to open the festivities by performing a clitoridectomy on the cake, which she did by slicing off the part of the cake in the crotch area. The inside of the cake appears to be colored red. The minister then proceeded to feed that part of the cake to its designer, African-Swedish performance artist Makode Aj Linde. He was done up in blackface, his head protruding through the table. Whenever the cake was cut in the area of the genitalia, Linde would cry out in mock agony.

What makes this story interesting, beside the cake being modeled after some art work by a brother who was trying to draw attention to female castration in Afrika, was that the cake was modeled after Sara Baartman, who some 200 years earlier had been paraded around Europe as a freak because of her Afrikan voluptuousness. After only five years, she died; they had used her up. Then they dislodged her brain and genitalia with its elongated and extraordinary labia and preserved them in bottles for public viewing in French and other European museums.

Below is the story as it was originally intended with a few modifications because of recent happenings:

Sara Baartman was the forerunner to the video vixen, go go girl, cage and pole dancer – although not by choice. She was a member of the Hottentot tribe, whose people had a unique feature: Their body fat was predominantly stored in the buttocks, instead of the belly or thighs.

And so when this voluptuous woman, who lived in Capetown, South Afrika, was spotted by Europeans in the early 1800s, they flipped out when they saw her unusually ample bosom, ample behind and thick, full lips! Soon thereafter they invited her to Europe, promising wealth, fortune and fame. But when Sara – the English name she was given – arrived in Europe in 1810, they locked her in a cage on wheels – buck naked! They paraded her all over Europe as a freak and said, “Look, Black people have tails!”

They called her Hottentot Venus, the Black goddess of lust (Hottentot) and love (Venus).

But this clever ruse would backfire in a way because soon the women of Europe were wearing a newfangled fashion embellishing their Victorian dresses called a “bustle,” which made European women appear to have “junk in the trunk” like Black women. And the French would invent the high heeled shoe, today often called a pump, to give the booties of white women a lift to compete with the Black rump.

Almost a century later, Europeans would try and revisit the Sara Baartman scenerio with Josephine Baker, who was above and beyond it all. “What savage beauty! She’s so magnificently primitive!” they exclaimed.

And later, in the 1960s, someone came up with the idea to create an anti-voluptuous Black madonna goddess image named Twiggy, who was so frail and thin and puny she looked like a twig. And this image was pushed so ubiquitously that thin became in – so that 50 years later thousands, if not millions of women still suffer from anorexia, bulimia and low self-esteem today.

And believe it or not, here in the 21st century, Jim Crow laws still stand against the magnificently diverse and oftentimes amble Black and Brown behind in beauty pageants worldwide; there seems to be an unwritten rule that no woman can enter a Miss America or Miss Universe contest with hips larger than 36 inches or have a behind with too much personality.

And yet the madness doesn’t end there. Today because of modern day technology it is possible to get lip implants, breast implants and implants for your behind! You can also buy padded underwear products, including the cleverly titled “Booty Pops,” which give a little bit of that Hottentot Venus look that was supposed to be inferior.

One moral to this story is that we have to do for self and create our own standards and public images of beauty, which we will be able to do by keeping more of our dollars in the community and supporting Black businesses! Buy Black Wednesday!

Sara Baartman died after only five years in Europe at the tender age of 21. She was born in 1789 and buried in 2002, 213 years later. And now this latest indecency in Sweden … May the world finally let Sara Baartman rest in peace.

Paradise is president of the International Black Writers & Artists Local 5 in Oakland and was recently honored by the City of Oakland with “Paradise Day,” on Oct. 6! He may be reached at oaklandworldsfair@yahoo.com. Paradise also facilitates the Buy Black Wednesdays Facebook page and group, hosts the Black Wednesday Show every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on www.harambeeradio.com and blogs at www.blackwednesdays.blogspot.com.

Editor’s note: Ann Garrison suggests calling the Swedish Embassy in the U.S. as she did: (202) 467-2652.