© 2023 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Play Examines Tragic Life of Sarah Baartman, 19th Century 'Black Venus'

Niki Lopez, African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
Actress Athena Lightburn as Sarah Baartman.

In the early 19th Century, a legal battle was waged by British abolitionists to free a black woman brought to Europe from Africa.

Her name was Sarah Baartman.  And her captivity played out – not in the fields --  but on a sideshow stage where she was exhibited as a human oddity, mostly in England.

Baartman’s story is fictionalized in the avant-garde play “Venus” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks, now playing at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City.

After being lured away from her South Africa home with the promise of high earnings in Europe, Baartman was put on display for British and Parisian audiences under the stage name "The Hottentot Venus." What made Baartman such an oddity to European spectators at the time was her steatopygia -- the clinical name for an unusually large derriere.

Below, you can hear more about the play -- and about Baartman's tragic and curious fate:


What: “Venus” by Suzan-Lori Parks

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 4 pm , through Feb. 5.

Where: African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave., Miami

For more information: Call 305-638-6771 or visit www.ahcacmiami.org


Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.