by Abdellatif Kechiche
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Paris, 1817: inside the Royal Academy of Medicine. “I have never seen a human head more similar to that of an ape’s.” Standing in front of a cast made of Saartjie Baartman’s body, anatomist Georges Cuvier is categorical. A group of his distinguished colleagues cheers. Seven years earlier, Saartjie had left South Africa with her master Caezar and abandoned her body to the audiences of London’s freak shows. Both free and a slave, she was the icon of the slums, the “Hottentot Venus” who was sacrificed to the mirage of golden success.