An Ode to the Woman They Called The Hottentot Venus

January 13, 2024
1 min read

A Poem For Sarah Baartman
Friday, October 5, 2007.
By Diana Ferrus

I’ve come to take you home –home, remember the veld?the lush green grass beneath the big oak treesthe air is cool there and the sun does not burn.I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,the proteas stand in yellow and whiteand the water in the stream chuckle sing-songsas it hobbles along over little stones.
I have come to wretch you away –away from the poking eyesof the man-made monsterwho lives in the darkwith his clutches of imperialismwho dissects your body bit by bitwho likens your soul to that of Satanand declares himself the ultimate god!
I have come to soothe your heavy heartI offer my bosom to your weary soulI will cover your face with the palms of my handsI will run my lips over lines in your neckI will feast my eyes on the beauty of youand I will sing for youfor I have come to bring you peace.
I have come to take you homewhere the ancient mountains shout your name.I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,the proteas stand in yellow and white –I have come to take you homewhere I will sing for youfor you have brought me peace.
Diana Ferrus, is a critically-acclaimed South African poet of Khoisan descent. She wrote “A poem for Sarah Baartman” while studying at the University of Utrecht, Holland, in 1998.
She told Marang Setshwaelo: “One evening I was looking at the stars and I thought to myself, ‘They’re so far away. But if I were home, I’d be able to touch every one of them.’ My heart just went out to Sarah, and I thought, ‘Oh, god, she died of heartbreak, she longed for her country. What did she feel?’ That’s why the first line of the poem was ‘I’ve come to take you home.”
This poem persuaded a leading French politician to campaign for the return of Sarah Baartman’s remains to her native South Africa.
Sarah Baartman was finally brought home from France to rest in South Africa in January 2002, after more than 200 years of humiliation and abuse.
With thanks Sokari Ekine at
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