Paris 1817, the Royal Academy of Medicine. “I have never seen a human head so similar to that of an ape’s”. Standing by a molded cast of Saartjie Baartman’s body, anatomist Georges Cuvier’s verdict is categorical. Seven years earlier, Saartjie left her native South Africa with her master, Caezar, to expose her caged body to the audiences of London’s freak shows. Free and enslaved all at the same time, the “Hottentot Venus” became an icon in the slums, destined to be sacrificed in the pursuit of a shimmering vision of prosperity.
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