Beyoncé’s representative has reportedly rubbished claims she will star in a self-produced biopic about Saartjie Baartman, a South African cultural icon who was enslaved and forced to work in early 19th-century freak shows in London and Paris.
that the singer and actor hopes to bring the story of the woman known by the stage name of the “Hottentot Venus”, to the big screen. Baartman was exhibited semi-naked at freak shows in London in 1810 due to her oversized buttocks, later moving to Paris where she died in poverty at the age of just 26. Her appearance in Britain sparked fury amongst abolitionists just three years after the passing of the 1807 Slave Trade Act.
The Sun reported thathoped to use Baartman’s story to position herself as an Oscar contender, and had assembled a team of writers and acting coaches to help her work on the movie concept. The film was said to follow Baartman’s enslavement and a failed court case launched by abolitionists determined to prove she was being made to perform against her will.
However, a representative for the singer, which specialises in debunking celebrity rumours: “Beyoncé is not connected to this project, but this is a very important story to be told.”
Baartman’s bones were returned to
The Sun’s original piece has received criticism for its inappropriate focus on Baartman’s posterior, which mirrors the attitudes the young woman faced from British audiences in the early 19th century. The newspaper was keen to flag up the supposed symmetry inherent in the idea of Beyoncé, who has recorded songs such as Bootylicious, taking on the role. Its piece suggested the singer’s interest was “unfortunate for Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, who would no doubt have wanted to audition,” and quipped that the movie might “hit a bum note”.
The rumoured Beyoncé project about Baartman had sparked fury in South, which was formed from the territories where the slave began her life before being sold into bondage. Chief Jean Burgess of the Ghonaqua First Peoples told South African website News24 that Beyoncé lacked “the basic human dignity to be worthy of writing Sarah’s story, let alone playing the part”.
Hollywood has faced opposition before from South Africans about films based on historical figures. In 2011, controversial freedom fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela described the biopic Winnie Mandela, which detailed her relationship with ex-husband Nelson Mandela and struggles during the apartheid era,”.