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'Even with the Best Intentions': The Misreading of Sarah Baartman's Life by African American Writers

Natasha Maria Gordon-Chipembere
Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity
No. 68, Culture (2006), pp. 54-62
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Agenda Feminist Media
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4066764
Page Count: 9
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'Even with the Best Intentions': The Misreading of Sarah Baartman's Life by African American Writers
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Abstract

On her return to South Africa in March 2002, many African American women began to claim Sarah Baartman as their 'mother Africa' and used her plight as an exploited woman to reclaim the black body and voice. Through investigating three texts, this briefing concludes that in the need to claim Sarah as their own, these women oversimplify and ultimately sexualise her in the same ways that her colonial masters did in 1810. The authors ultimately relegate her as a drunk and an accomplice to her own demise, confirming age-old European racist, sexist stereotypes. They are unable to recognise Sarah's unique Africanness; rather her context as black [read Western] woman. As there remains no evidence of Sarah's voice, her life is open to interpretation. In claiming her as a form of defiance, in the end many African American women continue to silence her experiences as a Khoisan woman within a Southern African context.

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