Beyoncé’s rumoured new film project has drawn criticism from a South African chief, who said the singer ‘lacks the basic human dignity’ to be worthy of the role. Beyoncé is said to be writing and directing a film based on Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman, a South African woman who was taken as a slave to Europe in 1810 and later forced to work in London ‘freak shows’, due to her extraordinarily large buttocks.

BeyonceBeyoncé is said to be writing and directing a film based on Sarah Baartman.

The news of the project was reported by The Sun, who said Beyoncé has hired a team of acting coaches and writers to help put together the movie, which she will also star in. The newspaper reports that the singer is ‘desperate to be taken seriously as an actress’ and is looking for her ‘breakthrough’ film role.

“She now wants to write a screenplay that gains her respect — and hopefully awards — from the film industry, and thinks Saartjie’s story could be her ticket,” a Hollywood source told the newspaper. “Winning an Academy Award would mean everything to her, and she’s a woman who is used to getting exactly what she wants.”

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But the reported project has already drawn criticism from Chief Jean Burgess, of the Ghonaqua First Peoples in South Africa. Speaking to Times Live Burgess said: "She lacks the basic human dignity to be worthy of writing Sarah's story, let alone playing the part.”

"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? I can only see arrogance in her attempt to tell a story that is not hers to tell.”

Despite Chief Burgess’ objections to the rumoured project, Beyoncé has received support from Gamtkwa Khoisan Council member Kobus Reichert who told News24 they did not have a problem with a movie or Beyoncé acting in it.

Reichert added that there would be no problem, as long as the community in the Eastern Cape, where Baartman was born was not sidelined and that it had to be done respectfully and with the right "cultural understanding".

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Baartman was born into the Khoikhoi tribe, often referred to as the Bushmen, and was taken to Europe as a slave in around 1810. Standing at just 4ft 7in tall, she was eventually forced to appear in London freak shows due to her large buttocks and ‘exotic features’. Nicknamed the Hottentot Venus, she was objectified and put on display to crowds who would pay two shillings to see her half-naked on stage.

Baartman died in 1815 aged 25 in France and her skeleton, preserved genitals and brain were placed on display in a Paris museum until 1974. Baartman’s remains were eventually returned to South Africa in 2002 and buried in the area of her birth, the Gamtoos River Valley in the Eastern Cape.