There has been a historic decision at the University of Cape Town to honor enslaved Khoi heroine, Sarah Baartman by renaming one of the halls at the university after her. The decision was made on December 8 by the council of the University of Cape Town to rename the university’s memorial hall after Sarah Baartman.
The hall is right at the middle of the Upper Campus and it was previously named after Sir Sir Leander Starr Jameson. Sir Jameson was a former Prime Minister of the Cape colony and it is record that he had started an unlawful raid which caused a war in South Africa. The university have deemed it fit to rename the hall after Baartman as a way of honoring her and restoring her stolen dignity.
Sarah Baartman, called Saartjie, was taken aboard a London-bound British ship under false pretenses when she was only 20 years old. On arrival she became a freak show exhibition material after which she was sold off to a French animal trainer in 1814. She died within a year from disease and being homesick.
Death was not the end of her humiliation, it probably took it up a notch higher. Her remains became specimen for scientific experiment as it was dissected and preserved using formalin. Scientists referred to her body as the lost link between apes and humans. It was not until 2002 that Sarah Baartman’s remains returned to Africa and she received proper traditional Khoi burial rights.
UCT sees it a befitting that Sarah Baartman be honored on the same grounds where most slaves were buried. A ceremony will be held next year to rename the hall at the University.