In recent news, a government-owned Egyptian broadcaster has expressed its anger with Netflix and the director of its new docudrama series ‘African Queens’ for casting a Black Cleopatra. This has led to a heated debate over the historical accuracy of the portrayal of one of Egypt’s most famous queens.
The broadcaster and other Egyptian academics argue that casting a Black Cleopatra is problematic because it goes against historical records. Cleopatra was born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 69 BC and belonged to a Greek-speaking dynasty, making her of European descent. As a result, they see the casting of Adele James, a British mixed-race star, as disrespectful and inaccurate.
In response to this criticism, the local broadcaster announced the start of production of a high-end documentary about the ‘true story’ of Queen Cleopatra, which promises to be based on ‘high levels’ of research. However, this move was met with widespread criticism online, with many users calling it out as racist.
The director of ‘African Queens’, Tina Gharavi, has also responded to the controversy, questioning why there is a ‘need’ for Cleopatra to be white instead of a ‘melanated sister.’ Gharavi believes that her portrayal of Cleopatra as a Black woman is a way to encourage Egyptians to see themselves as Africans. This has led to a broader debate over the identity of Egyptians and their relationship to the African continent.
The controversy surrounding the casting of Cleopatra in ‘African Queens’ highlights the ongoing debate over representation and historical accuracy in media. While some argue that historical accuracy should take priority, others see the casting of a Black Cleopatra as a way to challenge traditional narratives and encourage diversity in media.
As of now, Netflix has not issued a response to the criticism. It remains to be seen how this controversy will impact the production and reception of ‘African Queens’ and other media projects that seek to challenge traditional narratives.