Statement on the sale of Sara Baartman's statuette for commercial gain
19 Jan 2010
It is with utter dismay and sadness that some individuals in our society can be as insensitive as to make shameful commercial gain out of one of the historical tragedies of our time. It is an unfortunate feeling of déjà vu because this ghastly episode reminds one about how once again, Sara Baartman is still an object of ridicule and narrow commercial expediency. This time, she is of course deceased but she still becomes an ornamental artifact in the display sets of some myopic people’s middle class lounges. According to a Sowetan reporter, the name that is inscribed in the statuette is Saartjie Baartman, “Saartjie” being a derogatory name. There is no doubt that the statuette is a depiction of Sara Baartman.
The story of Sara Baartman is a sad story of prejudice, racism, insensitivity, blatant ignorance and a gross human rights violation. Even in her death, that does not cease to be a violation of those rights. It is a story that all right minded South Africans should teach the present generation about the need to rid society of the demon of ignorance and residual racism.
The Department of Arts and Culture views this in a dim light and notes that when Sarah Baartman was re-buried, it was an occasion which acknowledged her suffering and at the same time as symbol of reconciliation and a reminder to all South Africans about the ugly face of racism, colonialism and imperialism. This is reprehensible and an affront to all women and black women in particular. This is a story of a very unfortunate human being who was taken against her will and shipped to Europe to be displayed by Europeans as an object of fascination, ridicule and commercial gain. The Department’s view is that from a moral point, any attempt to draw commercial gain from Sara Baartman is an act that lacks all forms of human solidarity, compassion, understanding and respect.
Issued by: Department of Arts and Culture
19 Jan 2010
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