Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Hottentot Venus

Taken from South Africa to be displayed as a human freak show in England

French print of Sara Baartman on display
French print of Sara Baartman on display

It’s not every day you get an off-the-cuff reference to the Hottentot Venus, but there it is, casually worked into the dialogue during the first-half of Red Velvet at the Old Globe. One of the characters refers to her as a casual counterpoint to the scandal of putting black Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge (Albert Jones) on stage at the vaunted Covent Garden Theatre. If anything could frame Red Velvet firmly in its historical place, the story of the Hottentot Venus would.

Red Velvet

Nobody knows her real name, as Dutch supplanted her native Khoi when unscrupulous businessmen took her from South Africa to be displayed as a human freak show in England during the early 19th Century. Sara Baartman, the Hottentot Venus, was a curiosity to the uptight gentlefolk of her era. They paid good money to gape at her steatopygic derriere and speculate on her reputedly animalistic sexuality. The seemingly genteel English found no fault in freak shows and human zoos, which often displayed black people as evidence of the “missing link” between modern man and earlier iterations of human evolution. Baartman was hardly the only African exported against her will to Europe to satisfy the curiosity of white people, but her story resonates because she was treated as such a perverse caricature of a human being, and subjected to such degradations purely for the amusement of the leisure class.

At one point, Sara Baartman ended up in court, as abolitionist parties sought to prove she was being held against her will. Her managers produced a contract, alleging that the illiterate Baartman had consented to her captivity, and the matter ended there. Such contracts were unfortunately commonplace at the time, but today are no more enforceable than slavery itself because courts (in the U.S. and elsewhere) have determined that contractually obligated personal services violate at least the spirit of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Sara Baartman died of an unknown infection about 20 years before Ira Aldridge’s performance at Covent Garden. Her remains were not restored to South Africa till 2002.

Place

Old Globe Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Red Velvet plays through April 30 at the Old Globe.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Pepper covers Sublime for The House That Bradley Built comp

Hirie, G. Love, the Expanders, Common Kings, the Skints, Long Beach Dub Allstars, and Trevor Young also contribute
Next Article

Tahona Bar takes it to the street

Perks include cemetery view dining, and cocktails out of a VW bus
French print of Sara Baartman on display
French print of Sara Baartman on display

It’s not every day you get an off-the-cuff reference to the Hottentot Venus, but there it is, casually worked into the dialogue during the first-half of Red Velvet at the Old Globe. One of the characters refers to her as a casual counterpoint to the scandal of putting black Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge (Albert Jones) on stage at the vaunted Covent Garden Theatre. If anything could frame Red Velvet firmly in its historical place, the story of the Hottentot Venus would.

Red Velvet

Nobody knows her real name, as Dutch supplanted her native Khoi when unscrupulous businessmen took her from South Africa to be displayed as a human freak show in England during the early 19th Century. Sara Baartman, the Hottentot Venus, was a curiosity to the uptight gentlefolk of her era. They paid good money to gape at her steatopygic derriere and speculate on her reputedly animalistic sexuality. The seemingly genteel English found no fault in freak shows and human zoos, which often displayed black people as evidence of the “missing link” between modern man and earlier iterations of human evolution. Baartman was hardly the only African exported against her will to Europe to satisfy the curiosity of white people, but her story resonates because she was treated as such a perverse caricature of a human being, and subjected to such degradations purely for the amusement of the leisure class.

At one point, Sara Baartman ended up in court, as abolitionist parties sought to prove she was being held against her will. Her managers produced a contract, alleging that the illiterate Baartman had consented to her captivity, and the matter ended there. Such contracts were unfortunately commonplace at the time, but today are no more enforceable than slavery itself because courts (in the U.S. and elsewhere) have determined that contractually obligated personal services violate at least the spirit of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Sara Baartman died of an unknown infection about 20 years before Ira Aldridge’s performance at Covent Garden. Her remains were not restored to South Africa till 2002.

Place

Old Globe Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Red Velvet plays through April 30 at the Old Globe.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Don't forget Escondido

We're still spaying cats in San Diego
Next Article

Dennis Caco's Mission Valley missing Midori

Max Boost creator finds car near Sweetwater Road
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close