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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime
A beautifully written text, this book is a prize for any bookshelf. Rachel Holmes has succeeded once again in blending impeccable research with delightful prose; and when combined, invites the reader into a different place, a different time, a different viewpoint...at first, we are at one with the indigenous population of South Africa, following a story of domestic...
Published on 4 May 2007 by J. N. Smith

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A continuation of Baartman's appropriation
This book struck me as somewhat amateur in that Holmes insists on being incredibly presumptuous about Baartman's thoughts and feelings throughout the text, such as 'for earthbound Saartjie, sailing...must have been an experience filled with mystery, physical discomfort and fear'.

The conundrum of figures such as Baartman is that she has been represented and...
Published 10 months ago by Tallulah1983


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 4 May 2007
By 
J. N. Smith (Barcelona, Spain) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A beautifully written text, this book is a prize for any bookshelf. Rachel Holmes has succeeded once again in blending impeccable research with delightful prose; and when combined, invites the reader into a different place, a different time, a different viewpoint...at first, we are at one with the indigenous population of South Africa, following a story of domestic drudgery and bad luck - suddenly we are ripped from our comfort zone and introduced to a freak-obsessed showcase London - profit wins over protection and a lifetime of servitude makes itself abundantly clear to our subject, Saartjie Baartman. She reacts to her new surroundings accordingly and that is what makes her story all the more poignant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye Hottentot, hello South African icon, 23 May 2009
By 
Twa Young "Thoby Kennet" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman: Born 1789 - Buried 2002 (Paperback)
Two sets of human attributes are most fascinating to us. The first are
those which we believe we share with others and so enhance our common
humanity. The second, and more dangerous, and those which we believe
show up our differences, and help us to define ourselves, both as
groups and as individuals. Those differences sometimes give grist to
primitive and irrational racism.

Sartjie Baartman was a young Koisan (the current non-racist word used
for people formerly known as Hottentots and bushmen) woman born in the
1790s into the serving classes in Cape Town in the important and
remote trading teritory of Dutch/British South Africa. She was very
pretty and had a most enormous and, for Europe, unusual steatopygic bottom. She was brought to London and exhibited as a kind of freak show. She went on to Paris, and died there around 1815.

In London, anti-slavery campaigners had agitated for her human rights; in Paris she was seen as of scientific interest, and eventually dehumanised. Following her early death, she became a specimen on the shelves of a Paris museum. Following South Africa's renaissance under Mr Mandela, he requestedthat her remains be returned to her native country, which they duly were, and there she has achieved a mother-of-the-nation status.

Rachel Holmes' book starts with the historical background of Sartjie's
origins in Cape Town and follows her journeys to London and Paris and
her final return home to modern South Africa. The book is highly
readable and authoritative, not sparing in criticism of the
absurdities of the European scientists of the era nor of the details
of Saartje's short and tragic life. Read it and weep.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A continuation of Baartman's appropriation, 18 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman: Born 1789 - Buried 2002 (Paperback)
This book struck me as somewhat amateur in that Holmes insists on being incredibly presumptuous about Baartman's thoughts and feelings throughout the text, such as 'for earthbound Saartjie, sailing...must have been an experience filled with mystery, physical discomfort and fear'.

The conundrum of figures such as Baartman is that she has been represented and rerepresented in a range of roles and her voice has been misappropriated repeatedly, yet as she left behind her no first hand accounts of her life, it is difficult to do anything but mould her to how you wish to present 'The Hottentot Venus'. Holmes seemed to me to romanticise her experiences to build up a tragic heroine for her story.

If, like me, you prefer a more factual account of her life, I would recommend Crais and Scully 'Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography' instead.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 10 Nov. 2011
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This is a really fabulous book, a gripping read, and a great study on many levels, whether the history of South Africa, London in the eighteenth century or just man's humanity/inhumanity to man (and I include woman in that generalisation), perhaps borne out of fascination and curiosity. Highly recommended.
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