Saturday, June 3, 2023

Beyonce to Write & Star in Film on South African Icon, Saartjie Baartman

Plans to burn bright this year go into overdrive when your name is Beyonce, with the star reportedly set to write and star in a biopic film about the legendary South African KhoiKhoi woman, Sarah ‘Saartjie’ Baartman.

The tragic life of Ms Baartman, also known as Hottentot Venus – a moniker attributed to her due to her large bottom – saw her exploited in London “freak shows” in the early 1800s, where she was held and ‘displayed’ in poor conditions, like an animal in a cage.


An illustration of legendary South African,
An illustration of legendary South African, Saartjie Baartman

The tragic tale of this legend didn’t end with her shows, or her death in 1816 as for centuries since, activists and feminists have sought to raise awareness of the South African’s life and the degradation, exploitation and violence she suffered.

Activists also worked hard to have Ms Baartman’s remains removed from display at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, and be given a proper burial in South Africa, where she was buried on Women’s Day in 2002. The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children was also opened in her memory, to serve as a shelter for domestic abuse victims.

With lighter titles already in the bag for Beyonce, including Dreamgirls and Austin Powers in Goldmember, this upcoming film could see the start of a more seriously-considered acting side to the star, but backlash from South Africa’s KhoiKhoi people has been noted, with local Chief Jean Burgess telling News24 that the star;

“…Lacks the basic human dignity to be worthy of writing Sarah’s story, let alone playing the part. Ignoring the fact that the KhoiKhoi is alive and that Sarah’s story would have an impact on how we are portrayed, is a mistake of great magnitude.

Why Sarah Baartman? Why not a story about an Indigenous American woman? I can only see arrogance in her attempt to tell a story that is not her’s to tell.”

Beyonce in Dreamgirls (2006)

While we at SPICE hope the star is able to work with the KhoiKhoi to tell a tale that is both respectful and accurate, we will look out for an update on the project. But tell us what you think about Beyonce writing and starring in a movie on the legendary life of Saartjie Baartman, and whether you believe she is right for the part in the comments box below or online @SPICETVAFRICA.

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