Venus vs Modernity: The Story Of Saartjie Baartman. A Theatre Piece By Lebo Mashile

L-R: Lebo Mashile and Anne Masina

After years of preparation, the long waited 'Venus vs Modernity: The Story Of Saartjie Baartman' is finally here. Spearheaded by renowned South African poet, actor, producer and presenter Lebo Mashile, the theatre piece is made possible by the Windybrow Theatre Foundation, The Market Theatre Foundation, and Breaking Boxes.

The show will run from 12 - 28 September at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The eagerly awaited piece is directed by renowned thespian Pamela Nomvete and critically acclaimed writer Koleka Putuma, starring  Lebo Mashile as Saartjie and Ann Masina as Venus.

About Saartjie Baartman

Saartjie Baartman is best known for having been taken from Cape Colony more than 200 years ago and subjected to harrowing abuse while being exhibited as a freak in London due to her ample posterior.

At the peak of her fame in the early 1800s, Saartjie Baartman became a reference point for abolitionists, fashion designers, and political satirists alike. Her remains were dissected and put on display at the French National Museum for 150 years, and in 2002, Saartjie Baartman was finally returned to the land of her birth, the Gamtoos River Valley in the Eastern Cape.


Venus vs Modernity is an hour-long theatre piece depicting the life of historical icon Saartjie Baartman.

The piece fuses spoken word, poetry, dialogue, and music across genres to recreate the life of Saartjie Baartman through two characters, Saartjie and Venus. While the events that are depicted are historically accurate, the inclusion of Venus, a tempestuous, passionate, and formidable goddess, allows the piece to delve into a fictionalised inner world for Saartjie Baartman.

In addition, the piece is as humorous and entertaining as it a gut-wrenching and tender. It is a character driven, emotional journey driven by two formidable performers and a host of talented, experienced creative women who have worked on this piece throughout its development.

After wrapping up in Johannesburg, the production will also go to Amsterdam. According to Lebo Mashile, "The Dutch also need to get a taste of their handprint on our pain".

My Two Cents

Do you ever wonder what Saartjie Baartman's real name is / was before colonisers interrupted and made a mockery of her?

To think in the 19th Century Saartjie was dehumanised and mocked because of her body and fast forward to 2019, women are getting butt enhancements inspired by her.

When I think of Africans telling their stories and owning their narrative; this is exactly what I mean. It gives me great joy and comfort to see someone like Lebo Mashile, whose work and contribution to the culture speak for themselves, at the forefront of sharing Saartjie Baatman's story, backed by fellow renowned Black women like Pamela Nomvete and Koleka Putuma as directors.  I could not think of a better person to trust this story with than her.

What a time to be alive.

Source: The Market Theatre

Photo Credit: Daily Maverick
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