With ‘… have you hugged, kissed and respected your brown Venus today?’ (at the Théâtre de la Ville), choreographer Robyn Orlin recounts the tragic tale of Saartjie Baartman, better known as the Hottentot Venus - a young South African slave with unusually large buttocks, hips and sexual organs, brought to Europe in 1810 and treated as a freakish sexual object.
Through use of dance and documentary images, five actors bring the Venus back to life to “haunt our spirits” and help us question today’s relationship between Europe and Africa.
The subject is particularly relevant to France as the Hottentot’s skeleton, brain and genitals were exhibited in Paris’ Musée de l’Homme until the 1970s (she was finally repatriated to South Africa in 2002). If you fancy finding out more before you go, watch director Abdellatif Kechiche’s controversial 2010 film ‘Black Venus’. It movingly recounts how Saartjie’s time in England and France was spent between freak shows, Libertine gatherings and anatomist’s laboratories until she died, just five years later (in 1815), of what was probably a mix of pneumonia and syphilis.