Africa

South Africa anger after Sarah Baartman's grave defaced

Sarah Baartman cast in Paris 2002 Image copyright AP
Image caption A cast of Sarah Baartman's body and her remains were returned to South Africa in 2002 by France

The defacing of a monument in South Africa of a woman who was exhibited in Europe during the 19th Century as a freak has caused outrage.

Khoisan community Chief Daantjie Japhta said he was disgusted that a monument which "brought us dignity" had been defaced, local media reports.

A plaque at Sarah Baartman's burial site in South Africa's Eastern Cape province was splashed with white paint.

Known as the "Hottentot Venus", she was buried in South Africa in 2002.


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Several monuments have been vandalised in South Africa in recent months, as tensions over colonialism and apartheid resurface.

Police say they are investigating the weekend defacement of the world-famous burial site.

'Dividing the country'

An indigenous Khoisan woman, Sarah Baartman was taken from her homeland in 1810 after a ship's doctor told her that she could earn a fortune by allowing foreigners to look at her body.

Instead, she became a freak-show attraction investigated by supposed scientists and put under the voyeuristic eye of the general public.

She was forced to show off her large buttocks and her outsized genitalia at circus sideshows, museums, bars and universities.

Image caption The statue of Cecil Rhodes was removed after protests

After she died, penniless in 1816 aged 26, parts of her body were displayed in a museum in Paris.

Her remains were returned to South African in 2002 and she was buried and hailed an icon for women who still faced racial and sexual abuse.

About 20 Khoisan leaders condemned the defacing of the heritage site at an emotion-charged press conference on Monday.

"People want to plunge the country into a divide. The writing up on South Africa's coat of arms means unity in diversity," Chief Japhta said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Green paint was thrown on the statue of Paul Kruger, who is revered by Afrikaners

Earlier this year, the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes had human excrement thrown at it at the University of Cape Town.

The university then agreed to remove the statue following pressure from students and academics who said they did not want a colonialist to be honoured.

However, there has been a backlash from some white South Africans who have rallied to protect the statues of the 19th Century president Paul Kruger in the capital Pretoria, and 17th Century Dutch colonialist Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town.

White-minority rule ended in South Africa in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as the first black president.

Government officials have condemned the attacks on statues, and say a decision on their future will be taken only after consulting all groups.

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