By Sokari Ekine | with thanks to BlackLooks
Friday, September 28, 2012.
In 1998, Diana Ferrus wrote
the poem, “I’ve come to take you home” in honour of Sarah Baartman. In 1810, at
age 20 Sarah Baartman was lured away under false pretences by British ship
surgeon, William Dunlop. She was taken to England where she was paraded as a
sexual freak. In 1814, Sarah was taken to France where she was sold to an
animal trainer. The terrorizing violation of Sarah Baartman continued after her
death. A plaster cast was made of her body and then her body, brain and
genitalia were dissected and put on display in the Musee de l’Homme in Paris.
In the early 1950s, a South
African indigenous people, the Griquas (one of the Khoi peoples) petitioned the
French government for her remains to be returned to her country of birth.
However, an 1850 French law stated that all artefacts in French museums
belonged to France and the petition was refused. In 1996 President Nelson
Mandela also made a petition to then French President Mitterrand. Finally in
2001 a French senator, Nicholas About introduced a Bill for her remains to be
returned. The senator came across Diana’s poem, “I’ve come to take you home’
and presented the poem as part of his petition to show how Sarah’s people were
‘emotionally and psychologically’ affected by her remains still being in
France. The petition was successful and for the first time, a poem was
published in French law. On the 27th April, Diana left with a delegation from
South Africa to collect Sarah Baartman’s remains and bring her home. On the 4th
of May she arrived in Johannesburg and on August 9, 2002, Sarah Baartman was
finally laid to rest in peace after 192 years. Surely then, Diana played some
part in bringing Sarah Baartman home!
In the interview, I speak with
Diana about her poetry on the themes of memory, healing, Africa and liberation.
Diana reads four of her poems, “Dark Red Flowers” one of the many poems
dedicated to her mother; “The African Drum” on identity and searching for
African within us; The poem, Sarah Tait is in memory of her Irish grandmother
who came to South Africa as an indentured servant to British colonials; Diana
ends with the incredibly powerful moving story of Sarah Baartman’s return and
the poem “I’ve
come to take you home”
Links to Diana Ferrus – YouTube, The Peace Song; Badilisha Poetry