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Catalog Data

Created by:
Victor Ekpuk, Nigerian American, born 1964  Search this
Subject of:
Saartjie Baartman, Khoekhoen, died 1815  Search this
acrylic paint with paper, plastic and glass on Masonite
H x W: 72 × 42 × 2 5/16 in. (182.9 × 106.7 × 5.8 cm)
Place made:
United States
Place depicted:
Union of Saint and Venus is inspired by a rumored relationship between Pope Clement VII and an enslaved woman named Simonetta da Collevecchio, resulting in the birth of Alessandro de Medici (the Duke of Florence and Penne).
Ekpuk’s painting critiques the Catholic Church’s role in perpetuating the slave trade and how it benefited from this cruel institution. Twin papal staffs entering the body of a prostrate black woman signify this disturbing connection between the church and the African continent. The pope’s papal miter is decorated with gems, slave sale posters, and excerpts from the Dum Diversas, a 1454 decree issued by Pope Nicholas V that sanctioned the practice of conquering, subjugating, and enslaving Muslim Arabs and pagans—in this case, non-Christian Africans
Painting depicting the pope's mitre composed of red-tinted textual clippings and encrusted with faux-jewels. The text includes both Latin and English copies of the Dum Diversas, images of the Brookes Slave Ship, and advertisements for the purchasing of enslaved persons. A white line figure wears the mitre and uses two golden croziers as a symbolic phallus to penetrate the black abstract figure of the South African Khoikhoi woman Sarah Baartman, which lies horizontally beneath the pope figure. The light grey background is composed of many varied and repeating abstract figures including a ship carrying enslaved persons, shackles, a trio of enslaved figures, and crosses.
African American  Search this
Africa  Search this
Art  Search this
Catholicism  Search this
Christianity  Search this
Gender  Search this
Religion  Search this
Slavery  Search this
Trans Atlantic slave trade  Search this
Violence  Search this
Women  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
© Victor Ekpuk
Permission required for use. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Slave Narrative
Visual Arts
Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience.
On View:
NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Culture/Fourth Floor, 4 052
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture