Netflix series Queen Cleopatra faces backlash over Black actresstext_fields
Netflix docudrama series about the legendary Egyptian queen Cleopatra has stirred controversy over casting a Black actress to play the lead. The OTT platform's showrunners have been claiming that the historic figure was a Black woman.
While Egypt is a North African country, Queen Cleopatra was of Greek lineage. It is widely believed that she had Green features and skin colour.
After the teaser was released, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities issued a lengthy statement that said Cleopatra "had light skin and Hellenistic (Greek) features." The government body added that "those making the film have to be accurate and it should be based on historical and scientific facts, to ensure that history and civilizations are not falsified."
An Egyptian lawyer is also suing the series and said: "Our main objection is the falsification of these facts. It is not about being Black or White or even Yellow. Let’s say they wanted to portray Cleopatra as a man, we would also object to that."
Egyptians are widely protesting against the changing of history and appropriation of the local culture. Many also pointed out that by portraying a Greek woman as Black, Netflix and showrunners are sending out the message that there are no worthy Black figures whose stories are good enough to be told.
Cleopatra was of Macedonian-Greek origin. After seeing the actress playing the queen on the show, Egyptologist and former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass said: "This is entirely fake."
The Netflix show is part of the series 'African Queens' that focuses on important historical figures from the region. Netizens and activists are accusing the OTT platform of "erasing the Egyptian identity" of the queen. Showrunners are also being criticised for generalising all Africans and missing the nuances of the region. The platform is being accused of attempting to "promote Afrocentric thinking".
Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the year 69 BC and continued her father Ptolemy XII's reign till her death. She is the last of her bloodline that ruled ancient Egypt for around three centuries. Her empire was spread across modern-day Lebanon, Cyprus, Egypt, and other middle eastern nations. She ruled for 21 years and is praised for maintaining the kingdom's sovereignty, diplomacy, and charismatic personality. Her death is considered to be the end of Egypt's developing civilisation as the Romans colonised the region.
However, some are also curious about the possibility that Cleopatra might have had Black skin and curly hair because her mother's race is unknown. And the Macedonian royal family had spent eight generations in Egypt by the time she was born.
On the other hand, many have pointed out that the statues of Cleopatra from ancient days clearly show her as a woman with Greek features.