- Egypt's Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities defends that Queen Cleopatra was "white-skinned" based on historical statues and bas-reliefs, amidst the Netflix documentary controversy.
- The casting of biracial actress Adele James as Cleopatra sparks heated debates and legal complaints in Egypt, accusing Netflix of "blackwashing" history.
- Despite backlash and an online petition against the production, director Tina Gharayi stands by her casting choice, arguing that Cleopatra would have likely looked more like Adele than Elizabeth Taylor.
In the heart of the controversy over the casting choice for Netflix's documentary on Queen Cleopatra, Egypt's Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities has issued a statement. The ministry based its argument on historical statues and bas-reliefs of the iconic queen, stating that Cleopatra was of fair complexion.
Mixed-race actress Adele James (known for her role in Casualty) assumes the role of Cleopatra in the documentary, narrated and executive produced by Hollywood actress Jada Pinkett Smith. This decision, however, has triggered a heated discussion in Egypt, with many critics denouncing the production as a wrongful recoloring of their nation's history.
The controversy escalated to the point where a legal complaint was lodged against Netflix. The claimant argued that the streaming giant was misrepresenting Egyptian history to further an Afrocentric narrative.
On April 27th, a spokesperson for Egypt's antiquities ministry conveyed to The Independent that Queen Cleopatra had "white skin and Hellenistic characteristics." According to the ministry's statement, the most compelling evidence lies in the bas-reliefs and statues of Queen Cleopatra herself.
Born in 69 BC, Queen Cleopatra was the final ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, ruling until her death in Alexandria in 30 BC. Her mother's identity, and consequently her ethnic origins, remain an enigma. However, historical consensus leans towards the queen having Macedonian Greek heritage.
Following the unveiling of the documentary's trailer, a digital petition condemning the production for allegedly distorting history has amassed more than 8,000 signatures. The petition accuses Afrocentrism as pseudoscience, arguing that it attempts to hijack Egyptian history and deprive the true Egyptians of their cultural heritage.
According to the petition, Cleopatra, who was born into the Ptolemaic dynasty in Alexandria, Egypt, was of Greek descent, not of African descent. The petitioners clarify that this assertion is not intended as a slight against black people but rather a call to uphold the historical accuracy and integrity of the Egyptians and Greeks.
Despite the mounting criticism, the documentary's director, Tina Gharayi, stands by the casting decision, contending that Cleopatra is more likely to have resembled Adele than Elizabeth Taylor.
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