Sarah Baartman (sculpture)

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Artist: Willie Bester

Year: 2016

Date of Action: March 9th, 2016

Region: Africa

Location: University of Cape Town

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Sculpture

Confronting Bodies: Students at University of Cape Town

Description of Artwork: This piece is a sculpture of historical figure, Sarah Baartman. Sarah was put on display for crowds of people in Europe. The Europeans were awestruck by her curvy figure and would pay large amounts of money to see her exotic figure. She was a part of a freak show until her death. Willie Bester identified with the deep rooted racism that went beyond Sarah's death and decided to create a sculpture of her as a way to represent his own struggles with racism and racial inequity.

The Incident: On March 9th, 2016, students covered the piece as part of their procession to the Center for African Studies Gallery which was intended to commemorate the anniversary of the Rhodes statue being removed.

Results of Incident: Bester was surprised and upset by the students' decision to cover his piece. He did not intend for the piece to offend people, rather he made the piece about himself. He believed that there were many better ways of expressing offense for the piece other than merely covering it. This had a chilling effect on the piece and its impact on society. Bester was extremely angry with the university's lack of combatting action to the covering of the sculpture. He demanded the restoration of the work to its original state. He expressed the sentiment that covering up a body that defies notions of conventional beauty is a step backwards in society.


South Africa: Sarah Baartman Sculptor Speaks Out Against Art Censorship