Plastic post-mortality has been perfected

Having showed across the world for the past 15 years, the blockbuster Body Worlds exhibition has now berthed in Cape Town.

It runs until January 31 at the V&A Waterfront and comprises a selection of German scientist Dr Gunther von Hagens’s plastinated bodies.

From mummification to embalming, the human fascination with the preservation and anatomy of our bodies is hardly new. Nonetheless, one can’t help smirking at the appropriateness of the term “plastination” to describe the 21st-century quest for post-mortality. The process, which involves replacing the water and fat in a cadaver with special plastics that preserve it without smell or decay, was discovered by Von Hagens in 1977.

Since the first Body Worlds exhibition opened in 1997, some 35‑million people in 70 cities worldwide have flocked to see it. For many others, however, the concept evokes revulsion and horror, because plastinated  “bodies” is a palatable euphemism for “corpses”. And let’s not forget the ethical and religious implications of traipsing these human remains around the world as a consumer spectacular; tickets for adults cost a whopping R140.

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