A Netflix documentary drama series that portrays Queen Cleopatra VII as a black African woman has sparked controversy in Egypt. A lawyer has filed a lawsuit accusing Queen Cleopatra of violating media laws and trying to “erase the Egyptian identity”
A Netflix documentary drama series that portrays Queen Cleopatra VII as a black African woman has sparked controversy in Egypt. A lawyer has filed a lawsuit accusing “Queen Cleopatra” of violating media laws and trying to “erase the Egyptian identity”.
A renowned archaeologist insisted that Cleopatra had “light skin, not black”.
The series producer stated that “her parentage is highly debated”, and the actress who plays her sent a message to critics: “If you don’t like the cast, don’t watch the series”. Adele James said as much in a Twitter post that reproduced screenshots of abusive comments that included racist slurs.
Cleopatra was born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 69 BC and became the last queen of a Greek-speaking dynasty founded by Ptolemy, Macedonian general of Alexander the Great. She succeeded her father Ptolemy 12 in 51 BC and ruled until her death in 30 BC After that, Egypt fell under Roman rule.
The identity of Cleopatra’s mother is unknown. Historians say it is possible that she, or any other female ancestor, was indigenous to Egypt or another part of Africa.
Netflix partner site Tudum said in February that the decision to cast British actress Adele James as Cleopatra in its new docuseries was “a reference to the centuries-old debate over the ruler’s race”.
Jada Pinkett Smith, the American actress who served as an executive producer and narrator on the series, was quoted saying, “We don’t often see or hear stories about black queens, and that was very important for me, as well as for my daughter, and for my community to be able to know these stories because there are a lot of them!”
But when the trailer for the series was released last week, many Egyptians condemned Cleopatra’s depiction.
Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist and former minister of antiquities, told al-Masry al-Youm newspaper: “This is completely false. Cleopatra was Greek, which means she had fair skin, not black.” Hawass claimed that the only rulers of Egypt known to be black were the Kushite kings of the 25th Dynasty (747-656 BC).
“Netflix is trying to stir up confusion by spreading false and misleading facts that the origin of Egyptian civilization is black,” he added, urging Egyptians to take a stand against the streaming company.
Lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary filed a lawsuit with the Public Ministry demanding that “the necessary legal measures” be taken and that access to Netflix services in Egypt be blocked.
He claimed the series included material and visual content that violated Egypt’s media laws, and accused Netflix of trying to “promote Afrocentric thinking… which includes slogans and text intended to distort and erase Egyptian identity.”
Three years ago, plans for a film about Cleopatra starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot sparked a heated debate on social media, with some insisting the role should go to an Arab or African actress.
Source: BBC Brazil