Vandals in South Africa have vandalised a monument to Saartjie Baartman, Africa’s “Hottentot Venus” who was paraded in 19th century Europe like a circus freak, police said Sunday.
“The plaque was vandalised with white paint,” police spokeswoman Gerda Swart told AFP, adding that a resident who witnessed a group of people lobbing paint at the memorial had reported the incident.
An investigation had been launched, Swart said.
Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, a member of the indigenous Khoisan community, was taken from her homeland in 1810 by a British ship’s doctor who told her she could earn a fortune in Europe by allowing foreigners to look at her body.
She was paraded in Britain and France for years as a sexual freak because of her large buttocks and genitalia and died a pauper in Paris in 1815.
After her death, her body was dissected and her skeleton, skull and genitalia displayed in Paris’ Museum of Mankind until 1974. Her remains were finally brought home to South Africa in 2002 and buried in Hankey, amid much fanfare.
The defacing of the stone monument at her burial site is the latest in a spate of attacks on statues that began in March with a campaign by students at the University of Cape Town to have a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes removed from the campus.
The UCT campaign kicked off with a student flinging a bucket of human excrement at the statue and culminated with it being toppled after the university council voted to have it removed following weeks of protests.
The South African government has announced consultations on the fate of other monuments to the country’s former white masters.