The head of a statue representing Cleopatra, April 9, 2014 at the Pinacothèque de Paris -
Copyright © africanews
ERIC FEFERBERG/ERIC FEFERBERG
Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, still wearing his Indiana Jones hat, announced on Wednesday the release of a documentary on Cleopatra, the same day that Netflix released a similar film that has drawn the ire of Egyptians.
The hour-and-a-half documentary is described on the YouTube channel of its director, Curtis Ryan Woodside, as telling the story of "the REAL Cleopatra", while Netflix's choice to have its Cleopatra played by a black actress has sparked passionate reactions in Egypt for weeks.
"Was Cleopatra black? First of all, I have nothing against black people, but I am stating facts: look at the Macedonian queens, none of them were black," Hawass says in the documentary.
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities had already taken up the case, saying Cleopatra had "white skin and Hellenistic features".
Social networks and the Egyptian media were inflamed when the trailer for "Queen Cleopatra", produced by Jada Pinkett Smith for Netflix and presented as "based on reconstructions and expert testimony", was released.
An online petition, entitled "Stop the Cleopatra documentary on Netflix for historical falsification", has gathered over 40,000 signatures.
And, in a country where voices are calling for a ban on Netflix for content deemed offensive to Egypt or "its family values", MP Saboura al-Sayyed has once again called on parliament to ban the platform.
Regularly in Egypt, Internet users and commentators denounce campaigns, mainly from Afro-American groups, claiming a Black African origin of the Pharaonic civilisation.
Cleopatra belonged to the Macedonian dynasty of the Lagids, descended from the general Ptolemy who became king of Egypt when Alexander the Great divided his empire.
Although legend has it that the queen, born around 69 BC, was a great beauty, her appearance and skin colour remain largely open to interpretation.
In 2009, a BBC documentary claimed that she had African blood, but this did not arouse passions.