South Africa: Two Centuries On, the Story of Saartjie Baartman Is a Powerful Metaphor for Our Troubled Times

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'Venus vs Modernity' at the Market Theatre, written by Lebo Mashile, is an exuberant, loud and lively production that builds from a slow, thoughtful start as Mashile, playing Saartjie Baartman, connects with Venus, played by opera singer Ann Masina.

The war over women's bodies is nothing new, even if GBV (gender-based violence) has only recently moved to the top of our national lexicon.

Saartjie Baartman was making headlines way back in the 1800s, when her large Khoikhoi buttocks and exotic skin colour saw her exhibited as a freak show attraction in London and Paris.

Playwright and actress Lebo Mashile in the role of Saartjie Baartman in 'Venus vs Modernity'. (Photo: Lungelo Mbulwana)

Centuries later, African women are still being body shamed and treated as property to be owned, derided and abused. "Are we she?" asks playwright and actress Lebo Mashile in Venus vs Modernity, a long-simmering resentment that's slowly been honed into a full play.

The result is an exuberant, loud and lively production that builds from a slow, thoughtful start as Mashile, playing Saartjie, connects with Venus, played by opera singer Ann Masina.

Ann Masina, left, and Lebo Mashile in 'Venus vs Modernity'. (Photo: Lungelo Mbulwana)

The story treads...

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