The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said that Cleopatra was a “white person” among a bunch of actors around Netflix Queen Cleopatra.
In the documentary narrated by Jada Pinkett Smith, Cleopatra is portrayed by Adele James, a bisexual.
Her casting sparked debate in Egypt, due to the controversial nature of Cleopatra’s racial identity in real life.
Since the trailer was released, an online petition accusing the production of rewriting history has been signed by more than 7,000 people.
“African-centredism is a pseudoscience that is advancing the agenda of a group to assert the history of Egypt and rob the real Egyptians of it. By using false and unsubstantiated articles, they are still trying to distort history,” the petition’s description reads.
“Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt during the Ptolemaic dynasty and was of Greek descent. She is NOT black. This is not against the Negro, but simply as a wake-up call to preserve the history and integrity of the Egyptians and Greeks.”
On Thursday (April 27), Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities weighed in on the matter, saying Cleopatra had “white skin and Greek features”.
“The reliefs and statues of Queen Cleopatra are the clearest evidence,” the ministry statement said.
Cleopatra was born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 69 BC, succeeded her father Ptolemy XII in 51 BC and ruled until his death in 30 BC.
The identity of Cleopatra’s mother is unknown, leading historians to speculate that she may have been Egyptian or came from another part of Africa. However, others have suggested that her mother may have been Greek as her race has never been recorded.
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Last week, by Queen Cleopatra Director Tina Gharavi has opened up about the backlash surrounding casting for the documentary.
“Why shouldn’t Cleopatra be a melancholy sister?” Gharavi wrote. “And why do some people need Cleopatra to be white? Her closeness to white skin seems to be of value to her, and to some Egyptians, that seems to really matter.
“After many auditions and countless auditions, we found in Adele James an actor who could convey not only Cleopatra’s beauty but also her strength. What historians can confirm is that it is more likely that Cleopatra looked like Adele than Elizabeth Taylor once did,” she added.
Queen Cleopatra will be released on Netflix on May 10.