Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project. She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.” She blogs at Kola Boof. com
I wouldn’t dare presume to know exactly, tone and texture, what Cleopatra looked like in 30 B.C. But when Americans claim that she was a White woman, even a supposedly dark White woman like Angelina Jolie or Elizabeth Taylor—and when they use modern day Egypt, Greece and the White Arab world to justify such claims—I find it akin to claiming Black Americans are a “mostly” light-skinned group of Indians who came to this country light-skinned from some fictional great Redbone Tribe five hundred years ago.
It simply isn’t accurate.
Still and all, Hollywood, the NAACP, pioneer Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux and even JOHNSON PUBLICATIONS have traditionally tried to pretend that Lena Horne and Fredi Washington are what the “motherseed” of the Black Americans looked like—instead of Cicely Tyson, Nina Simone, Angelique Kidjoe and Esther Rolle—which, I, as an African woman, know for a fact is far more accurate.
Casting Angelina Jolie as Cleopatra is a continuation of this lie. And if Halle Berry indeed stars in a film about the life of truly gingerbread-colored Ingot-eyed Queen Nefertiti, then I say the same thing—these images are wholly Colorist and par for the course in a White Supremacist movie industry that primarily lessens the power of Black African people by disallowing positive and attractive images of authentic Black females—the original genetic womb-bearer of all Creoles, Berbers, Mende-Race (Negroes) and everybody else claiming to be Black.
The intent, of course, is that the Black-Seeing-Eye will gradually reject its actual mother and choose lighter and whiter images—until, POOF—the Blacks don’t exist anymore. The music video and magazine images that African people create (think Wale and Puff Diddy) are just as cancerous, colorist and Anti-Black Womb as the ones created by White Hollywood, but right now, we’re focusing on the hidden face of Cleopatra.
To be clear—Egypt had several Queen’s called Cleopatra, so I am speaking on the child Queen who became mistress to Roma’s Cesar and had a love affair with Marc Antony.
I am Half-Egyptian; my pale eggshell-colored father was the renowned archeologist Harith Bin Farouk. Technically, I am Biracial. And please make a note—that like most Biracial people in North or East Africa, I don’t look Creole; I look completely Black. Again, repeat after me—the overwhelming majority of Biracial people in Africa look Black, despite the Whitest of admixture, because our parents and families are a lot purer than Western Blacks to begin with.
Many Nubians in Egypt (and hell, the Black-skinned Egyptians of Upper Egypt themselves) are so deep dark skinned (what you call “Blue Black”) that no one would ever believe they are in fact—biracial. But in many instances, that is the case. Of course, in Africa, whether it be Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania or the Congo, we don’t care about “DNA” or who your parents were. Mariah Carey could be the daughter of Michael Jordan and Grace Jones and our question would still be this: “Are the ancestors showing?”
If you don’t “look” Black to the African eye—if your tribe, the Bloodberry (resulting in dark skin; African hair— you call “nappy”) and the “Ethos” of the ancestors (trust) don’t immediately spring to mind—then you’re not “Authentically Black” to African people no matter who your parents were.
By the same token, if tennis legends Venus and Serena’s parents were Jay Leno and Ann Coulter—then they would still be considered “Black” because, DUH, they look like the ancestors. Looking like your people (African, Black) engenders “trust” immediately. They don’t have to wonder who you are or whose side you’re on. It’s not rocket science. The Black belongs to Africa and the Half-Caste is “Half” somebody else’s unless they can pass for all Black.
So now speculating about the color of Cleopatra; Biracial American Halle Berry—who is quite a bit more light-skinned in person than in films—might have a harder time being seen as “Black” in Africa than Biracial American Tiger Woods, who is dark enough to absorb and store sun. But then again, very brown Biracial Tiger Woods would have a harder time being seen as “Black” than Biracial Egyptian-Sudani Kola Boof, who under an African sun appears un-mixed to Africans living outside Sudan. Then you have biracial Nubian actress, Bastet, who is Blue Black in color and lives in Egypt, the daughter of an Italian, and wouldn’t even be questioned because her skin is so dark.
So with that in mind, the insistence that Cleopatra was “biracial/mixed” (back in 30 B.C.) and therefore looked light skinned enough to be a White Woman is total Camel Shit. We mustn’t forget that Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat was the child of a White Arab Egyptian father and a Black Sudanese mother. For those who aren’t aware that Nubia and Cush are both located in Sudan and that the name “Nefertiti” is Nubian, not Egyptian and that the majority of Egyptian Queens were in fact “imported” from Nubia—because PUNT (Somalia) was the origin of the original Egyptians themselves—then you start to realize that White historians in the west and White Arab historians in modern Egypt do a great racist deed in covering up the true faces and lineages of ancient Egyptian peoples.
Going by what I was taught back home and not by the White people in America….Queen Tiye (Kiya), the mother of King Tut, was a Black Nubian woman directly related by blood to Queen Nok of Cush (who we know was Charcoal black)—so how in the hell did King Tut come out White, Olive or even tanned skinned circa 30 B.C.? I don’t buy it. The average Nubian woman today in 2010 still looks very much like singer-actress-model Grace Jones. And in fact, most of the Sudanese I know in America have always claimed Grace Jones as Nubian and ignored factual published reports that she was born in Jamaica. She looks exactly like a Nubian Queen to our eyes!
Additionally, there is the claim that Cleopatra was Greek. But the Greeks were Black themselves at one point in history. So were the Jews in Israel, the Palestinians, all the people of the middle east and the Mediterranean from Iraq to Sicily were originally of a Black coloration. This is a fact.
I have visited much of Southern Greece and to this day, there are nappy-headed Greeks, Greeks with Nubian bone structure, masks and statues painted Black and Negroid that resemble African movie stars Akosua Busia, Genevieve Nnaji and Djimon Hounsou. There are Black statues of the Virgin Mary all over Southern Greece—not lightly brown—but Black. The Greek people, in 2010, kiss the feet of these Black Virgin Mary statues during mass. When you ask them why the statue looks like Naomi Campbell dressed up as a Nun holding a Black baby Jesus—they don’t know why. They just do it.
Obviously, over time, the world has been changed and re-arranged to fit the image of the people creating the images. We who are from Africa and have eyes know this, but few of us have guts to speak. Those Africans who are given passports and allowed entry into the West are often the weaklings and cowards, the self-haters, and worse than that, many of us are imbued with a creeping stupidity. We don’t value the things we should value.
I don’t doubt that someday the Los Angeles LAKERS basketball team could be portrayed in Outer Space Theaters as mostly-White boys or that Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and Michael Jackson could all go down in history six thousand years from now as being fully White. It really is that crude. As Blacks, we’re such a Kiss-ass Loser-prone race that we invite our erasure. I say that as an African mother with the fully justified bitterness that only a North African Black woman can convey—and it is conveyed because we’re part God, part ancient and just totally buried and silenced.
It’s bad when a Mother is disappointed in her children and doesn’t trust them or even like them.
On the other side of this Cleopatra coin—are the constant images that encourage Blacks in Africa to skin-bleach and don colorism. A good example that I’m sure Black Americans never think about is the image of honey-colored Jill Scott in “The #1 Ladies Detective Agency” playing a Botswana woman. I absolutely love Jill Scott and think she’s a fabulous star, but when the film plays in Botswana (where the story and character are set); the image becomes just as problematic as that of Angelina Jolie playing Cleopatra—because the overwhelming majority of women in Botswana don’t look anything like Jill Scott. In fact, in that country, many people refer to Jill as “mulatto”—something I’m sure would shock her (and most American blacks). But yet again, they are set up to idolize an image that is much lighter and more “other”—a norm that they can’t attain unless they bleach their skin or marry out. The answer never seems to be what it should be: “Have images of our selves as the Norm and the Standard.”
So the damage done in America to Black American girls watching Angelina Jolie play Black women and BET videos chock full of Non-Black music video Models is dittoed in Africa using images of Alicia Keys on giant Billboards to sell African Pride. The billboard of Biracial Alicia Keys in Ghana says “I AM AN AFRICAN.” It’s quite imposing, alien and colonialist—but because the people feel so inferior in their Black skins and African facial features, they want to claim her not as a biracial daughter, but as being “representative of them”—what they dream of their beauty being.
That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they didn’t punish their own Ghanian beauties for not being or looking like Alicia. That is the evil that Black people do—they punish themselves and the “dark wombs” (which is virtually their entire community) for not being or producing the thing they covet. Alicia doesn’t look a thing like the vast majority of women in the countries where the billboard hangs. So those women are pressured to skin bleach to look like her. Some Africans try to deny this. But if everything being glorified, chosen and adored is light and foreign—then it is pressure no matter how indirectly that pressure is dealt.
Globally, for Black women, it’s a specialized holocaust. The ones who are actually “black” don’t have representation of their own group. Their local types of beauty become un-seeable. Black gums, which used to be a sexy trait for instance, become “ugly” simply because White and Mixed people don’t have them. The image of Whiteness is reiterated by pretending the very lightest is “black”—or by occasionally presenting dark skinned images that are physically White-like or Euro-fitted (Naomi, Iman; even Kola if I’m honest.)
This is why I’m so grateful for Michelle Obama.
Truly, Michelle is “more powerful than Three Cleopatras; bomb graffiti on the tomb of Nefertiti”—Lauryn Hill. She’s a revolutionary image and with her has come an “ethos” for Black people all over the world—something akin to our real mother’s face. Women who look like Michelle signal our people’s continuation just as surely as women who look like Princess Diana signal the well-being and continuation of the White humans.
As mere mortals, these facts and distinctions are important.
Perhaps instead of playing Black roles in “A Mighty Heart” and “Cleopatra”, Angelina Jolie ought to learn how to comb her Black adopted daughter’s hair and let that be her empathy.
It is not lost on me that in the opening reel of Hollywood’s 1934 version of “Cleopatra” (starring one of my favorite actresses, Claudette Colbert), a group of women in Rome gossiping about the Egyptian Queen utter the line: “What could such a creature look like?…I heard she’s BLACK!”
In the film, no one responds to the line.
But notice that even at a time when the magnificent but Mammy-dressed Hattie McDaniel was the only “type” of Black female image allowed on American film screens (the Black Maid era)—the Whites had heard that Cleopatra was Black so often—they had to mention it in the movie just to dispute it. That’s how deeply some part of them believed that she was Black—they had to give it honorable mention.
Now picture Hattie McDaniel in her maid’s uniform and imagine what that uniform meant to White people’s feeling of wellness and comfort. It was all they allowed Black women in films to wear—that uniform and the weight they were required to gain in order to even audition for the Maid’s part. So just imagine what that uniform meant to them and then visualize the scene.
CLEOPATRA, PARAMOUNT, 1934: “What could such a creature look like?…I heard she’s BLACK!”
Think about that shit.