April 12, 2024
Pharaohs, pyramids, and mythological gods weave together thousands of years of Egyptian history. With the iconic Great Sphinx of Giza and the enigmatic hieroglyphics etched into ancient temples, Egypt’s past is fascinating and mysterious. There is a complex web of social, cultural, and political dynamics beneath the glitz of its ancient monuments. No matter if you are an aspiring Egyptologist or simply curious about the world’s oldest civilization, Egypt’s history is sure to captivate and inspire you.

  • The Cleopatra series on Netflix caused protests among Egyptians. Why?

Several Egyptians have protested against Netflix’s portrayal of Cleopatra in recent months. It is important to note that this is one of the most famous figures in Egyptian history. According to many Egyptians who believe the series misrepresents their culture and history, the series has been met with criticism from a number of Egyptians. In ancient history, Cleopatra is regarded as one of the most iconic figures due to her beauty, intelligence, and her political knowledge. In ancient Egypt, she was the last pharaoh, and she is remembered for her close relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, as well as her role in the Roman conquest of Egypt in the first century B.C.

Among the concerns surrounding the Netflix series is Gal Gadot’s casting as Cleopatra. An Israeli actress playing one of Egypt’s most important historical figures is seen as disrespectful by many Egyptians. It has also been criticized that a non-Egyptian actress played the role, arguing that it was a missed opportunity to showcase local talent. Egyptians are also concerned about how the series will portray Cleopatra and ancient Egyptian culture in general. Egypt’s rich culture and history will be reduced to a few clichéd tropes if the show perpetuates stereotypes and inaccuracies.

Egypt’s opposition to the Netflix series has gained significant traction on social media, with many Egyptians using hashtags like #BoycottNetflix and #NotMyCleopatra. It has even been suggested that Israeli products and services be boycotted in protest of Gadot’s casting. Egyptians feel insulted and have their great history deliberately falsified, and many International Egyptian figures have protested in international media the Netflix portrayal of Cleopatra. Large number of Egyptians also believe that Netflix is deliberately fabricating the image of Egyptian history in favor for the Afrocentric Movement.

 

  • Media and the fabrication of history

It is needless to say that there are several ethical and moral problems associated with fabricating history. In the first place, history is a record of past events that have shaped the world as we know it today. Therefore, falsifying history can have serious consequences for our understanding of the past, our perception of the present, and our ability to make informed decisions in the future. Intentionally falsifying history can mislead people and create a distorted understanding of the world, contributing to social, political, and cultural problems. falsifying history can undermine trust in the institutions and authorities tasked with preserving and disseminating historical information. The research and interpretation of historical events can also be harmed by it, damaging the credibility of historians and other experts. Falsifying history is morally wrong and ethically problematic because it can mislead people, damage institutions, promote harmful ideologies, and violate the rights of those affected by historical events. Hence, it is important to ensure that historical information is preserved, researched, and disseminated in a responsible and transparent manner.

 

It is possible to fabricate history through media in a variety of ways, ranging from subtle distortions to outright fabrications. Media has an underestimated role in fabricated history in the following ways:

As a result of the 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation,” which promoted racist stereotypes and contributed to discrimination and violence against Black Americans, the Ku Klux Klan was portrayed as heroic and African Americans as savage and immoral.  In order to portray Stalin as a hero, the Soviet Union altered historical records frequently under Joseph Stalin. The process involved changing the names and biographies of individuals in official documents, airbrushing photos to remove political opponents, and rewriting history to glorify Stalin. A controversy erupted in the 1980s when the Japanese government downplayed or denied its wartime atrocities, such as the Nanking Massacre and the use of “comfort women” as sex slaves during World War II. Japanese atrocities during World War II have been downplayed and history revised. In recent years, Netflix’s “The Crown” has been criticized for portraying events in the lives of the British royal family inaccurately or misleadingly. For entertainment purposes, critics have accused the show of taking liberties with historical events and fabricating scenes and dialogue.

 Another vivid example is how the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine portrayed in media of the west and the east. both sides have been accused of fabricating history to advance their political agendas. These are just a few examples of how media can fabricate history. These distortions and falsehoods, whether intentionally or unintentionally, have real-world consequences, shaping our perceptions of the past and influencing how we live in the present.

It is believed among Egyptians that Netflix is intentionally misrepresenting or distorting the facts of historical image and events of Egypt in order to promote a particular agenda. This can involve suppressing or ignoring certain aspects of history, inventing or exaggerating details, or reinterpreting events in a way that is not supported by the evidence. When history is falsified in this way, it can have serious consequences for individuals, communities, and nations. For example, it can perpetuate myths and stereotypes about certain groups of people or promote discriminatory or oppressive ideologies and it can also fuel conflicts and perpetuate social, political, and cultural problems. In addition to these ethical concerns, falsifying history can also be deeply insulting to nations and peoples who have been affected by those events. When history is falsified or misrepresented, it can erase or distort the experiences and perspectives of individuals and groups who have been marginalized or oppressed. This can be particularly damaging in cases where historical events have had a significant impact on a nation or people’s identity, culture, or sense of self.

 

  • What is the Afrocentric Movement?

 

Late in the 20th century, the Afrocentric movement emerged as a response to claims that African cultures and the African diaspora were marginalized. Those who believe in the Afrocentric movement believe that African people and their cultures have played an important role in the history and development of the world.

African Americans began challenging the dominant Eurocentric view of history and culture in the late 19th century, which led to the development of the Afrocentric movement. W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson argued that Western scholars systematically ignored or distorted the history and contributions of African people.

Following the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 1970s, the Afrocentric movement gained momentum. The concept of Afrocentricity, which emphasizes the centrality of African cultures and values in shaping the world’s history and development, was developed during this time by African American scholars like John Henrik Clarke and Maulana Karenga.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Afrocentric movement gained prominence in response to Western media’s cultural imperialism and globalization of Western consumer culture. Leaders of the movement argued that the hegemony of Western culture threatened African cultures and values, and that preserving and celebrating African cultures was crucial to African empowerment and liberation.

African American culture and scholarship, as well as the broader field of cultural studies, have been influenced by the Afrocentric movement. Researchers studying African cultures and their contributions to world history have challenged the traditional Eurocentric view of history and culture.

Although the Afrocentric movement has been criticized for its exclusionary and essentialist tendencies. Scholars have argued that Afrocentricity risks reducing African experiences and cultures to a monolithic and static concept of “Africaness” due to its emphasis on African cultures and values.

Furthermore, the Afrocentric movement represents a significant development in the history of African American culture and scholarship. The emphasis on Africa’s cultures and values has challenged the traditional Eurocentric view of history and culture, contributing to the development of new theories and methodologies for studying African cultures. The movement’s essentialist and exclusionary tendencies, however, highlight the ongoing challenges of balancing cultural diversity with shared experiences and values.

Toni Morrison and Alice Walker have incorporated Afrocentric themes into their works, while musicians like Fela Kuti and Bob Marley have promoted African pride through their music.

However, the Afrocentric Movement has had a lasting impact on our understanding of history, culture, and identity. In addition to encouraging African Americans to be proud of their heritage, it has challenged the dominant narrative of Western civilization. In shaping our understanding of race, identity, and representation, the Afrocentric Movement strives to present itself as a “vital and influential force”.

  • Afrocentricity and Ancient Egypt

The Afrocentric Movement has held that ancient Egypt was an African civilization since its inception. In addition to Egypt’s geographic location on the African continent, and its identification as an African people, it is based on a number of factors.

Senegalese historian and scholar Cheikh Anta Diop was a key figure in the Afrocentric Movement’s focus on ancient Egypt. As Diop claimed, ancient Egyptians were black African people, and their achievements in science, art, and philosophy were a testament to their intellectual and cultural prowess.

Ancient Egypt was a multi-ethnic society with a diverse population that included Africans, Middle Easterners, and Mediterranean.

  • Critiques of the Afrocentric Movement

Critics and controversy have surrounded the Afrocentric Movement’s focus on ancient Egypt. Ancient Egypt’s focus on the movement has been criticized for a number of reasons, including:

One criticism of the Afrocentric Movement’s focus on ancient Egypt is that it promotes a distorted view of history that ignores or overlooks important historical facts and evidence. The movement, for example, exaggerates the contributions of Africans to ancient Egyptian civilization, while underplaying those of other ethnic groups.

The Afrocentric Movement’s focus on ancient Egypt overlooks the diversity and complexity of ancient Egyptian society. Ancient Egypt was a multiethnic society with a diverse population of Africans, Middle Easterners, and Mediterranean, according to critics. Afrocentrism’s emphasis on ancient Egypt as a fundamentally African civilization is therefore oversimplistic and reductionist.

Critics argue that the Afrocentric Movement’s focus on ancient Egypt is motivated by politics or ideology rather than historical scholarship. According to some, the movement promotes black nationalism or challenges the dominant narrative of Western civilization rather than genuinely interested in understanding ancient Egypt’s history and culture.

An additional criticism is that it promotes an essentialist and romanticized view of African culture through its focus on ancient Egypt. It has been argued that the movement aims to reduce African societies to a single, homogenous entity by oversimplifying and generalizing their diversity and complexity.

Other cultures can be marginalized or excluded by the Afrocentric Movement’s focus on ancient Egypt, according to some critics. The movement, for instance, is criticized for underplaying the contribution of other ancient civilizations, including Greece and Rome.

Although the Afrocentric Movement has challenged the dominant narrative of Western civilization and promoted a renewed interest in African history and culture, it has also been criticized.

  • Is the Afrocentric Movement hostile to Egypt?

Fair enough, one cannot say the Afrocentric movement as a whole hates Egypt. Afrocentric groups and individuals have, however, criticized or rejected Egypt’s significance in African history.

There may be a desire to challenge the Eurocentric view of history, which traditionally places Egypt in the context of the ancient Near East rather than Africa. Afrocentric scholars contend that this view minimizes the African contributions to ancient Egypt and reinforces the idea that Africa is merely a passive recipient of external influences rather than a center of civilization in its own right.

There may also be issues of representation and identity behind the criticism of Egypt. Afrocentric scholars claim mainstream scholarship has whitewashed or erased the fact that ancient Egyptians were black Africans. Scholars, however, are not unanimous in their acceptance of this claim.

Scholars and activists in the Afrocentric movement hold different views on Egypt and other topics, and not all hold the same views.

References:

Asante, M. K. (1987). The Afrocentric idea. Temple University Press.

Diop, C. A. (1974). The African origin of civilization: Myth or reality. Lawrence Hill Books.

Karenga, M. (1993). Introduction to black studies. University of Sankore Press.

Morrison, T. (1992). Playing in the dark: Whiteness and the literary imagination. Harvard University Press.

Walker, A. (1983). In search of our mothers’ gardens: Womanist prose. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Marley, B. (1977). Africa unite. Island Records.

Kuti, F. (1975). Expensive shit. Editions Shanachie.

Moses, Wilson Jeremiah (13 September 1998). Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-0-521-47941-7.

Lefkowitz, M. R. (1996). Not out of Africa: How Afrocentrism became an excuse to teach myth as history. Basic Books.

Trigger, B. G. (2003). Understanding early civilisations: A comparative study. Cambridge University Press.

Kemp, B. J. (2006). Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a civilization. Routledge.

Bernal, M. (1987). Black Athena: The Afroasiatic roots of classical civilization. Rutgers University Press.

Mokhtar, G. (Ed.). (1990). General history of Africa, Volume 2: Ancient civilizations of Africa. UNESCO.