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The Sound of Silence and the Resurrection of the Hottentot Venus: Abdellatif Kechiche’s “La Vénus Noire”

Next Wednesday, October 3 at 5:15pm, Dr. Eloise Brière, Professor at SUNY-Albany, Specialist of African & Caribbean Studies will present “The Sound of Silence and the Resurrection of the Hottentot Venus” at the DiMenna-Nyselius Library.  This will be a fascinating lecture and of interest to the WGS faculty and students!

“In our postcolonial age, the story of the Hottentot Venus has special relevance for those from former colonies whose peoples were subjected to Europe’s pathologizing gaze. Caught between the pre-Darwinian drive to determine the place of humans on the evolutionary scale and the European public’s insatiable appetite for the exotic and strange, Sara Baartman, a subaltern black woman was brought from South Africa to Europe in 1810 to be displayed in freak shows as well as in genteel drawing-rooms for Europeans to view her disproportionate buttocks and genitalia. Silenced by the voices of her keepers as well as by that of France’s most authoritative scientist, Georges Cuvier, Sara became the site of scientific speculation as the missing link between lower primates and homo sapiens.  The Tunisian filmmaker, Abdellatif Kechiche, born four years after his country’s independence from France, could not fail to hear Saartje Bartman’s silence. The presentation will discuss how Kechiche fills in the blanks of history to resurrect Saartje Baartman, whose European odyssey ended in 2002 when the French government allowed her remains to be returned to South Africa.” without script.

City of Westminster Archive Center, London/Bridgeman Art Library
“Sartjee, the Hottentot Venus, Now Exhibiting in London, Drawn From Life,” read the caption on this engraving, circa 1810.

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