There is a new film in town at the Imax Theater, in Exposition Park. The first impression is that it is a beautiful film with breathtaking cinematography of Kemetic (Egyptian) temples, tombs, pyramids, art, landscape and more. The fact that its focus is on mummies adds an extra spark of interest, especially when specifically looking at Pharaoh Rameses II, or Rameses The Great, as he is referred to in the film.
Seeing all of this on the gigantic Imax screen makes it even more impressive. There are times when you almost feel like you are right there in Kemet (Egypt). Before the screening, the director, Keith Melton, gave a brief summary of the film. As soon as he said there were some re-enactments, that was a sign that there may be some trouble ahead. Sure enough, most of the people depicted in ancient Kemet were either Caucasian or Arab looking. Afrikans were virtually non-existent.
The greatest insult was seeing Rameses and Queen Ahmose Nefertari (means Beautiful Companion), Ramese’s wife, cast as Caucasians. This is typical when films are made on ancient Kemet. It does not matter if it is on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the biggest culprit, or PBS. It is always their view to project, or propagandize, that the ancient Kemetic people were Caucasian. The clue, even before showing the various figures in the film, was that all of the scientists and Egyptologists in the film were of European and Arab descent, totally neglecting that there are very credible Afrikan scientists available. That was their strategy of maintaining unanimity of perspective.
Whether it is in filmmaking or academia, this is an intellectual disease that consistently permeates filmmaking about the ancient Kamites. Can you blame them? They do not want to lose their fictional top-of-the-pedestal position of being seen in films and books as the creators of civilization, science, mathematics, engineering, philosophy, religion, architecture, agriculture, and on and on and on. They will not voluntarily relinquish that position of intellectual power to the people they enslaved, and then try to explain that to the world. Frederick Douglass gave us some timeless insight, “Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.” So did the South Afrikans fighting against apartheid, “A Luta Continua,” the struggle continues.
When Rameses was walking forward in the film, white as snow, it was such a painful feeling that people could culturally distort such a great figure; even in the face of physical evidence they can see. The cover of the press kit (see above) included a photo of Rameses, while inside his temple there were dark or brown-skinned paintings of him on the walls.
Observing that Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities was involved, that was a distinct signal this film was going to be another hype to project the image that the ancient Kamites were Caucasian. Dr. Hawass is on record in stating, “Egypt civilization was unique. Egypt is in Afrika, but has nothing to do with Afrikan culture.” (BBC radio program) In other words, another filmic effort to dismiss that Afrikans, black people, had anything to do with the ancient Kemetic culture.
This was further emphasized during the question and answer period with the director. Children were the first to begin the questioning. I was deciding if I should even pose a question. The audience was a sea of whiteness, and I was imaging in my head that I would be booed. In spite of this, I had to at least ask one question, no matter the consequences.
Complimenting the director for the film and the beautiful cinematography of the temples, pyramids, etc., I mentioned that the late Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Afrika’s greatest scientist, often referred to as the pharaoh, conducted a melanin dosage (melanin is color pigment) test on the mummy Rameses, and concluded, based on the results, that he was black. Then the question,
“Why would you cast Rameses, as well as Nefertari, as Caucasian?”
Expecting boos to fill the auditorium, there was complete silence. Melton, the director, responded, “We consulted with about ten Egyptologists, and they agreed that is how he looked. We looked at the Egyptians today, and compared them with the past. There is always going to be some disagreement.” I wanted to hit on the point about today’s Kamites, who are Arabs, at least around Cairo, but become blacker when traveling south, but did not want to get into a debate, since everyone was being so polite.
As we were walking out of the auditorium, Isidra (my life partner) ran into a young brother she knew. He stated, “I’m glad you asked that question. They need to know.” While in the men’s restroom, white men came up to me saying the same thing, “I’m glad you asked that question. He just danced around it.”
Upon exiting, an elder white man approached stating, “It was good you asked that question. Nefertari was a Nubian (Sudanese). I don’t know why he made her white.” At this point I felt better, knowing that there were others who were aware of this gigantic historic cover-up.
One good aspect of the film was showing how scientists were collecting DNA from the bones of mummies to hopefully help find cures for such diseases as malaria.
The bottom line of all this, the battle continues. The struggle to have Afrikans recognized for their contributions to the world will never end, especially when it comes to ancient Kemet. Many prominent European and Arab scientists, especially Egyptologists, will never admit that black people created civilization. That is why Afrikan world scholars must never give up in bringing historical truth to the surface. As the saying goes, “Truth crushed to the earth, will rise again.”
– Dr. Kwaku’s next class, Afrikan World Civilizations (Part II), conducted on Friday evenings, 7-9 p.m. at Kaos Studios in Leimert Park, will begin Feb. 22, 2008. For details go to: www.drkwaku.com.