GUEST BLOG: We Owe It To Saartjie

The crisis of being woman demands a truth and a call for spiritual healing and social renewal.  I submit the story of Saartjie Baartman as a contribution of and to truth.

courtesy of
Saartjie (Sara) Baartman was born Khoisan (indigenous first people), in colonial South Africa in 1789 near the Great Fish River in Eastern Cape.  Before she left her homeland in South Africa in 1810 (at the age of 21) she worked as a slave for Dutch farmers.  The Khoisans were negatively labeled Hottentots (primitive form of humanity) by European settlers.
Hendrick Cezar, the brother of Baartman’s employer and Alexander Dunlop, a physician on a British Navy Ship took Baartman to London where the primary source of revenue for her owner was Baartman’s bare anatomy.  She was promised a share of the monies and thus a way to better her life (this is the same general manipulation of the female found in pornographic and strip-club industries today).  She was advertised as a human oddity.  She was placed on display for the eyes of European Elites (1810-1816).  This was the start of the reprehensible showing of her body in night clubs, circuses, colleges, and medical laboratories. Saartjie’s body was used to satisfy sexual fascinations about African women. 
In 1814 she was relocated to Paris, France where Henry Taylor exhibited her before passing her on to various owners including a zoo keeper.  Baartman died on January 1, 1816, miserable and six thousand miles away from her homeland.
After her death, Georges Cuvier performed the autopsy.  He dissected her body.  Her body parts, including her genitals and anus were placed in formaldehyde containers and were kept on display at Musee de l’Homme until 1976. 

courtesy of

Numerous futile attempts were made to have Baartman’s remains brought back home to South Africa. It was Nelson Mandela, the President of a new and democratic South Africa (1994-1999) who reengaged the diplomatic conversations that led to the repatriation of Baartman’s remains to South Africa.  Baartman was finally buried and granted eternal rest on August 9, 2002. This was 186 years after her death.

I decided to retell the story of Saartjie Baartman for the following reasons.
Firstly, it informs us of the history of the Female Body, especially the Black Female Body as it was inferior and dominated by the powerful of that time. 
Secondly, the story provides an opportunity to compare women of today to Baartman. There is still a fixation on sex and the Female Body. There is still a disrespect of the sanctity of a female. Thirdly, this story can serve as a reminder of where we came from.  Baartman was subjected to this horrid lifestyle against her will. Nowadays, there are young women willfully engaging in similar lifestyles and doing it with pride.
Hopefully the story of Baartman will give women the power to make positive decisions. Saartjie could not make a choice for herself.
Women have a choice today!
 There is no prestige in dressing scantily, sexing for money and being a “Tip-Drill” (that is having dollar bills (tips) place in a G-String while dancing on a stage or a pole). The social identity of women is rudely redefined when damning vocabulary (bitch, hoe, slut and “cutta”) is used and made normal.  Sadly, these words are readily accepted and used by some females, and accepted without resistance.  That is a problem.
Then there is the abuse and adultery of women.  In some male and female minds it is a normal for women to be beaten on and cheated on.  There are some women who decide there is no other choice but to engage in promiscuity, monogamous promiscuity, and even acts of prostitution as a means of survival and economic empowerment.  These and other forms of women-hatred need to seriously be rethought and reenacted. 
Freedom of the woman must start with women!
Women must organize themselves to assist and rear the young in our communities.  Women owe it to Saartjie and the many others who have given their lives for our freedom to choose a better way of life.
Further to that, as a man and a father, men who are willing to be advocates must also take a stand. We are one human family, women and men, men and women.  It is imperative that we get involved in the process of female liberation and the creation of a more equal society.

For the Sacred Ancestors,
Jevon O. Neely
I wish to thank Mrs. Tiffany Hall and Mrs. Candilaria Thompson for this invitation to share.  I hope your efforts will continually have at its core a transformative will to inspire, empower and educate.
Rev. Jevon O. Neely is a proud Bahamian who studied at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, where in 2001 he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Ministries and a minor in Psychology.  In 2003, Rev. Neely enrolled at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia; where in 2006, he graduated with a Master of Divinity with a Certificate in Black Church Studies.
Rev. Neely’s foundations are in the Bahamian Baptist tradition.  He was ordained at Bethel Baptist Church on July 18th, 2004.  In 2010, Rev. Neely joined the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church (BCMC).  He serves as Chaplain at Queen’s College School, Minister at Ascension Methodist Church and a Lecturer of in the conference’s Center for Leadership, Education and Training (C-LET).  Rev. Neely is writing his first book The Black Bahamian Male set to be released the summer of 2014.

Rev. Neely is married to Mrs. Sandena O. Neely (nee Mortimer) and they have two wonderful children.  In his spare time he enjoys his family life, gardening, painting, reading and writing.




Farrell Goff said...

Great historical reference. I wonder though... What would Rev. Neely have to say about the Christianization of the African Slave and how the bible has contributed to a society that view women as generally inferior to men and at the males disposal. (Adam & Eve is a good place to start)

Maybe you can get Rev Neely to engage your readers a bit further. Or will he be like most religious leaders - deliver their word from the pulpit and then vanish until the next Sunday???

MWMs said...


Thank you for your comment and support.

I will forward your comment to Rev. Neely. I am certain he will be happy to respond in a follow up post next week on our Guest Blog Day.

I will ensure that he does.

Jevon Neely said...

Thank you for your post Mr. Goff. Two very good questions. However, I need clarification on your first question. Do you want to know what I have to say in terms of my agreement or disagreement, are you asking my theological, ethical or anthropological position, or are you asking from a historical investigative standpoint - please guide me, so that I can better answer you. But nonetheless this is a very engaging question.

To answer your second question; some of the stories in the Bible and those in theological history do promote sexism and misogyny (the hatred or dislike of women).

If invited, I can respond in full next week.

Farrell Goff said...

Rev Neely first let me thank you for your willingness to engage me and anyone else with questions or comments, this is a rarity among persons of the cloth. I like you already... Lol

Now whether you answer my question from an anthropological, theological or ethical perspective I would think the answers would converge or should converge. If you have any real historical context of black folks you would know that Christianity was NOT the native religion of the first slaves to arrive in the "new world". Christianity was forced on our ancestors and of course they quickly realized that assimilating the slave master was the best means to avoid harsh punishment and even death (actually this is still ingrained in most black folks, this is why so many of us want what the white man has, we want their affirmation).

We also know that Indian and Chinese and ever Mayan history predates much of the biblical history but there is NO MENTION of them in this particular story.

Anyway I say all this to say in many instances the Christianization of the African Slave has led to many of the challenges we face as a people today. Slavery was bad enough but the complete erasing of an entire people's history was so traumatic and destructive we still haven't even begun to recover.

I'm rambling.... Yes I would like your perspective from all three points of view please Rev (anthropological ethical & theological)

MWMs said...


Thank you for your comments and questions.

I am certain that next week's follow up Guest Blog will be just as informative as this first post by Rev. Neely.

Hopefully, one day soon you too will be willing to be a Guest Blogger!

MWMs said...

Rev. Neely,

Thank you for accepting the invitation to be a Guest Blogger this week and next week with a follow up post.

I am certain as you share your perspective you will also enlighten our readers.


Natasha Nixon said...

Wow...can't wait until next week. I like where this is going! Very informative from both prospective!!

Natasha Nixon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandena Neely said...

Smiling to proud of my hubby...blogging on MWM...muah! Well done babes!!!