Dora and the other woman
Dora, a patient of Dr Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst. Pinned onto Dora’s curtains, and scattered on the floor, are various cartoon drawings of Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, among many that actually appeared in the popular press in England and France in the 19th century.
Who was Dora?
“Dora” was the case name (not the real name) of a young German woman, a patient of Freud’s. His diagnosis of her troubles appears to have been strongly influenced by the very paternalistic views of women in his day (the late 1800s). This view regarded women as somewhat like children, not in control of their feelings, and not fully responsible for themselves.
Who was Saartjie Baartman?
Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman was a Khoisan woman who was taken from the Cape to Europe in 1810. She was taken on tours around Europe as a sideshow spectacle, for people to stare and laugh at. She never made it back to South Africa: after a tragic life, she died aged only 26, in 1816. Her body was taken to be dissected as a curiosity by a French anatomist, Georges Cuvier; he then preserved parts of her body in storage jars that were then kept in the Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Man) in Paris for almost two centuries. Her remains were only finally brought home and buried in South Africa in 2002. A monument to her has been built at her gravesite.
Siopis is interested in both Dora and Sarah Baartman, who were born almost a hundred years apart. She sees both as victims of a stereotyping that was once (in their different times) accepted by society in Europe: who believed these views to be purely objective, harmless or natural.
Talk About This
Why has Penny Siopis combined these two women’s stories in one painting, do you think?
She seems to have also included herself (as the woman in the painting), thereby linking the two stories with her own present time, too. Why, do you think?
Ideas that were once commonly accepted, can be seen in a later period of our history, to be wrong, misguided and cruel. What causes change in people’s perceptions?
What stereotypes of women can you think of that are still entrenched in our society today?