*Beyoncé may be perfect for many film roles, but according to Chief Jean Burgess of the Ghonaqua, the First Indigenous Peoples of South Africa, the singer is not worthy to portray Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman.
In an interview with South Africa’s News 24, Burgess responded to a rumor going around that Beyoncé was planning to write and star in her own movie based on Baartman in an effort to win an Oscar. In his eyes, the singer-actress just doesn’t measure up to doing Baartman justice on the big screen.
“She lacks the basic human dignity to be worthy of writing Sarah’s story, let alone playing the part,” Burgess said. “Ignoring the fact that the KhoiKhoi is alive and that Sarah’s story would have an impact on how we are portrayed, is a mistake of great magnitude.”
“Why Sarah Baartman? Why not a story about an Indigenous American woman?,” he added. “I can only see arrogance in her attempt to tell a story that is not her’s to tell.”
Noted for being put on display in freak shows because of her large posterior, Baartman was born into the KhoiKhoi tribe in 1789 in the Gamtoos River Valley. Baartman, dubbed “Hottentot Venus,” attracted the attention of many people, who paid money to see her for years. Baartman continued to generate crowds after her death when her brain and genitals were placed in jars in an exhibition at the Musée del’Homme (Museum of Man) in Paris until 1974. In 2002, her remains were finally returned to her birthplace at the request of former South Africa president Nelson Mandela.
According to MadameNoire, Burgess cited the history surrounding Baartman as his basis for demanding consultation, respect, and acknowledgment of the existence of the Peoples, which he feels are fundamental to any narrative on Baartman.
Although Gamtkwa Khoisan Council member Kobus Reichert mentioned that he didn’t have a problem with the rumored movie on Baartman or Beyoncé acting in it as long as the community in the Eastern Cape wasn’t ignored, he emphasized that the project needed to be done respectfully and with the right “cultural understanding.”
For coverage on the Beyoncé-Sarah Baartman rumor, check out the video below: