After rumors swirling that Beyonce would be writing and starring in a film about Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman — the South African woman who appeared in freak shows because of her physical features during the 1800s — the multi-hyphenate is denying her involvement.
“Beyonce is in no way tied to this project,” her rep told Billboard in a statement (Jan. 5). “This is an important story that should be told, however.”
Baartman — shown off in exhibits under the name Hottentot Venus — was made a spectacle across Europe, particularly England and Paris for her voluptuous shape. She died in 1815 at the age of 26 — five years after her arrival in Europe — but did not receive a proper burial in her native South Africa until 2002.
Jack Devnarain, chairman of the South African Guild of Actors, echoed Beyonce’s sentiment, telling Billboard over e-mail that Baartman’s story deserves recognition.
“The story of Saartjie Baartman is a tale of torture and humiliation of a woman, womanhood in general and an entire culture indigenous to Southern Africa. As an episode in South African history, it describes the crippling damage of racism, sexism and exploitation,” he said. “Baartman was paraded as a freak and brutally robbed of her humanity. Her story needs to be told.”
Beyonce’s film career includes the 2002 action comedy Austin Powers in Goldmember, 2009 stalker thriller Obsessed, and the 2006 musical drama Dreamgirls, for which she landed two Golden Globe nominations. She also directed and starred in the 2013 HBO documentary about her life called Life Is But a Dream.