Outcry in Egypt over an African Cleopatra. This Netflix show rekindles a dispute about the queen's heritage and skin color.

Cleopatra was descended from a line of Macedonian Greek kings who ruled Egypt from 323 B.C. to 30 B.C., when it was annexed by Rome, and many scholars contend that she very likely had little, if any, non-Greek blood.

The Ptolemies - as all the dynasty's kings were called - tended to marry their own sisters or other relatives, leaving few openings for new blood, though there is some evidence that she had a Persian ancestor, some scholars say.

'' Statues of Queen Cleopatra confirm that she had Hellenistic [Greek] features, distinguished by light skin, a drawn out nose and thin lips,'' Egypt's government said on Twitter on April 30. 

On this much, at least, everyone can agree : Cleopatra was a formidable queen of ancient Egypt, and last of the Macedonian Greek dynasty founded by Alexander the Great, and went on to even greater posthumous fame as a seductress, immortalized by Shakespeare and Hollywood.

Beyond that, many of the details are fuzzy - which is how one of the world's dominant streaming services ended up in an imbroglio with modern Egypt recently, called out by online commenters and even the Egyptian government for casting a  Black actress to play Cleopatra in the Netflix docudrama series ''African Queens,'' which aired on Wednesday.

Soon after the show's trailer appeared last month, Netflix, disabled comments as they  turned into a hostile and occasionally racist, piling on.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, the government agency in charge of heritage, declared the show a ''falsification of Egyptian history.''

A popular television host accused Netflix of trying to '' take over our Egyptian culture.'' An Egyptian lawyer filed a complaint demanding that the streaming service to shut down in the country.

For the show's makers, the four episodes about Cleopatra were a chance to celebrate one of history's most famous women as an African ruler, one they portray as Black.

But for many Egyptians and historians, that portrayal is at best misreading, and at worst a negation, of Egyptian history.

Despite her Macedonian Greek lineage, the producers of the show say question marks in her family tree leave room for the possibility that her mother was of another background :

The identities of Cleopatra's mother and great mother are unknown, leading some experts to argue that she was at least partly Indigenous Egyptian.

'' We don't often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories, because there are tons of them,'' Jada Pinkett Smith, who produced '' African Queens,'' said ina Netflix sponsored article about the show. 

Modern battles over Cleopatra's heritage and skin color have erupted repeatedly, finding fresh fuel with each new Hollywood casting, starting with Elizabeth Taylor, who played her 1963, and including Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga and Gal Gadot, all recent contenders to portray her in various projects.

Netflix casting of Adele James, a biracial British actress, is a reflection of Western arguments over Black representation in Hollywood and whether history is too dominated by white narratives that revolve around European primacy.

But it stirred up a very different debate in Egypt, where many view identity and race through another lens. 

For many Egyptians, the question is whether Egyptians and their ancient ancestors - geographical location notwithstanding - are African.

The search for Master Comprehension continues. The World Students Society thanks author Vivian Yee.


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