Paperback: The Hottentot Venus, by Rachel Holmes

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The Independent Culture

In 1810, a South African woman of 21, displayed at an erotic freak show in Piccadilly ("Venus was simply a synonym for sex"), could be pinched and prodded by boors for two shillings. The actor Richard Kemble came to her assistance and was graciously thanked by Saartijie Baartman in the Khoisan language, notable for its "implosive consonants" better known as "clicks". How she came to London and died in Paris five years later, where her bones were displayed for almost two centuries before being returned to her homeland for burial in 2002, is a salutary story of the utmost interest.