Kim Kardahsian’s recent photo spread for Paper magazine where she bared her bottom, was crafted to “break the internet” as the cover suggested. Although that feat didn’t happen, it did reignite the world’s obsession with curves just as a legendary yet tragic figure did in the 19th Century.
The “Hottentot Venus” aka Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, was a woman who was possibly a slave of Dutch settlers in what is now South Africa. The term “hotttentot” was created by the Dutch as a result of the language used in the region. The word is considered offensive by today’s terms. A member of the Khoi tribe, Baartman attracted attention for her large backside, breasts and other features despite her petite frame. (According to published reports, She stood about 4’7).
As a result of her shape, she was placed on display at circus freak shows across Europe. It has been rumored that she was one of two Khoi women who were taken from their native lands to perform for white audiences. Baartman initially worked in Great Britain under curious means later investigated by local authorities. It was determined that Baartman actually came to Europe of her own free will.
She was later sold to a Frenchman, who placed her in similar freak show environments. Baartman, who spoke several languages and was musically talented, performed for large audiences across Paris. However, Parisians soon tired of her act and she was left to scramble for money by putting on her own shows.