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Prints and Drawings
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Full-size image not available for download. Please contact Rights and Reproductions.
Artist: Michael B. Platt, American, 1948–2019

Hanaku

2003

Charcoal

sheet: 65 × 44 cm (25 9/16 × 17 5/16 in.)
Gift of Jean and Robert E. Steele, M.P.H. 1971, M.S. 1974, Ph.D. 1975
2004.90.5
The word hanaku in the ancient Mesopotamian language of Akkadian means warrior—an interesting concept to attach to Saartjie Baartman, the Khoikhoi woman pictured here who was taken from South Africa and exhibited as a “freak” in nineteenth-century Europe. Michael B. Platt’s stunning composition places Baartman’s body in profile, highlighting the youthfulness of her smile and cheekbones and lending her legs a rooted, rather than sensual, strength. The ambiguities of the composition—the focus of her gaze and her environment—hint at larger uncertainties in the record of Baartman’s life. The thirty-three silver flowers at the bottom of the image may be meant to draw parallels between Baartman’s youth and Jesus’ age when he was betrayed and crucified. As Baartman’s body was dissected after her death, the pointed objects might also symbolize surgical equipment.
Geography: 
Made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Works on Paper - Drawings and Watercolors
Bibliography: 

Pamela Franks and Robert E. Steele, Embodied: Black Identities in American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2010), 63, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.