Analyzing contemporaneous and contemporary works that re-imagine the "Hottentot Venus"
Black Venus 2010
They Called Her 'Hottentot'
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edited by Deborah Willis
Susan Koppelman Award for the Best Edited Volume in Women's Studies by the Popular Culture/American Culture Association, 2011
As a young South African woman of about twenty, Saartjie Baartman, the so-called "Hottentot Venus," was brought to London and placed on exhibit in 1810. Clad in the Victorian equivalent of a body stocking, and paraded through the streets and on stage in a cage she became a human spectacle in London and Paris. Baartman’s distinctive physique became the object of ridicule, curiosity, scientific inquiry, and desire until and after her premature death. The figure of Sarah Baartman was reduced to her sexual parts.
Black Venus 2010 traces Baartman’s memory in our collective histories, as well as her symbolic history in the construction and identity of black women as artists, performers, and icons. The wide-ranging essays, poems, and images in Black Venus 2010 represent some of the most compelling responses to Baartman. Each one grapples with the enduring legacy of this young African woman who forever remains a touchstone for black women.
Contributors include: Elizabeth Alexander, Holly Bass, Petrushka A Bazin, William Jelani Cobb, Lisa Gail Collins, Renée Cox, J. Yolande Daniels, Carole Boyce Davies, Leon de Wailly, Manthia Diawara, Diana Ferrus, Cheryl Finley, Nikky Finney, Kianga K. Ford, Terri Francis, Sander Gilman, Renée Green, Joy Gregory, Lyle Ashton Harris, Michael D. Harris, Linda Susan Jackson, Kellie Jones, Roshini Kempadoo, Simone Leigh, Zine Magubane, E. Ethelbert Miller, Robin Mitchell, Charmaine Nelson, Tracey Rose, Radcliffe Roye, Berni Searle, Lorna Simpson, Debra S. Singer, Penny Siopis, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, Michele Wallace, Carrie Mae Weems, Carla Williams, J. T. Zealy, and the editor.
"Willis (Posing Beauty) offers a comprehensive, inclusive, and coherently organized anthology that embraces 'scholarly and lyrical, historical and reflexive' responses to Baartman, as a woman, as a black woman, as an object, as an icon, as an inspiration to creative artists, and as a catalyst to scholars. The book moves from Baartman's life and times to an assessment of the figure of the “Hottentot Venus” in contemporary art and a broader consideration of the historic public display of black women. Appended is a photo gallery that is as essential and diverse as the texts. This remarkable volume satisfies the academic reader with scholarly essays and moves the general reader with its creative expression, making it fascinating and accessible to any one."
"Consisting of scholarly essays, poetical works, roundtable discussions, fictional reimaginings and historiographical research, Deborah Willis' outstanding edited collection, Black Venus 2010 is a radical tour de force... An invaluable addition to scholarship, Willis's [book] showcases a breathtaking array of forms and approaches to investigate Sarah Baartman's proliferating social, political aesthetic and historical identities."
"Black Venus 2010 is a necessary and much-anticipated academic reader.... Willis's fascinating collection challenges us to continue to read Baartman's many iterations and forever contemplate how an ordinary black woman with an ample behind rocked the foundation of a nation."
"Willis has compiled a truly interdisciplinary analysis of the life and image of Sarah Baartman, the so-called 'Hottentot Venus.'... [The] inclusion of poetry and visual art provides an added metaphysical dimension that complements the scholarly articles in this book."
PART I: Sarah Baartman in Context
PART II: Sarah Baartman’s Legacy in Art and Art History
PART III: Sarah Baartman and Black Women as Public Spectacle
PART IV: Iconic Women in the Twentieth Century
Epilogue: I’ve Come to Take You Home (Tribute to Sarah Bartmann Written in Holland, June 1998)