“Exodus” as Contemporary Movie Racial Mythmaking
Molefi Kete Asante
The assault on African culture and history is unrelenting. A few years ago we thought that so much work had been done by African historians and others to correct the misleading historical accounts of European myth-makers about ancient Egypt that we would never again see the type of creative productions as we see with the two recent movies, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” and “Moses.”
Both movies are scandalous in the misuse of facts and history. We have seen these movies before in the long history of white racial projection of ancient Africa as white. There are many issues with these movies and other critics will have their own take on the inaccuracies presented in these movies. The problem is that these are not innocent movies; they are presented with particular aims and objectives. While it is true that in a democracy people can make any movie they care to make, it is also true that those who take issue with the false portrayals of history must correct the record.
Unfortunately those who see these movies will leave with the idea that the ancient Africans of Egypt were white people! The movie “Exodus” has ratcheted up the once thought dead argument of the peopling of ancient Egypt. There was no white ancient Egypt. The movie’s projection of this erroneous notion is an assault to all African people. It is an attempt to rob Africa of its classical civilization. This projection is not only untrue it is the continuation of the raping of African culture for the benefit of a myth that has crippled the ability of whites to view Africa properly.
Ancient Egypt was an African country and the farther back in Egypt’s history one goes the blacker the people are because it was a society without as much racial mixture as you see now. Since the invasion of the Assyrians in 673 BC, Persians in 525 BC, Greeks in 333 BC, Romans in 30 BC, Arabs in 631 AD, Ottomans in 1517, French in 1799, and British in 1802, the character of the country has changed but the fundamental base of Egypt remains its Black African character. There are still black people who live in Egypt as there are still black people who live in Libya; they have been in both of those countries from the earliest times, after all both countries are in Africa!
The builders of the pyramids were neither Jews nor Arabs. Imhotep, the first architect of the first pyramid, around 2800 years before Christ, was an African. This is before there were any Jews or Arabs in Egypt. In fact, neither the Hyksos nor the Assyrians had invaded at this time. The pyramids, fortunately in a historical way for Africans, were built over one thousand years before there is any evidence of outside invaders. Anyone in Egypt who is not black is either an invader or the son or daughter of invaders; Egypt remains a country that is to African civilization as Greece is to Europe and China is to Asia. It is unbelievable that we are still having to correct the improper education of the mass of contemporary Americans and Europeans about the character of ancient Egypt.
The fact that 20th Century Fox did not care to consult ancient African historians on the character of the society demonstrates the arrogance with which the myth of a white Egypt with black servants parades in Hollywood.
I have no religious objections to these films; my objection is to the fact that we will have another generation of children who will go to school thinking that the builders of the pyramids were not Africans and that ancient Egyptians were not Africans. If there is an intellectual crime against culture and history, this is the worst criminal activity in recent movie history. “The Prince of Egypt” made in 1998 by DreamWorks was another one of these films, much like the far older “Ten Commandments,” in which white filmmakers captured a large part of ancient African history and colored it white. It is like black filmmakers capturing Greek or Roman history and painting all of the leaders and people as black. We would immediately see this as a violation of common sense as well as actual fact. However, the systemic nature of the racial projection of a white Egypt has to be rooted out of the industry if we are to get beyond the falsehoods presented by these movies.
The movie “Exodus,” apparently costs $140 million to make but obviously the moviemakers did not spend one dollar to hire consultants to get their story correct about the character of ancient Egypt. I think that “Exodus” was one of the greatest betrayals of racial facts of history in the modern era. The producers and directors decided to cast all of the leading people as whites. What little black child or white child or any child for that matter would see this movie and not believe that whites controlled ancient Egypt? This is the insanity that drives racism or the racism that drives insanity. The media, especially the movie industry, has a powerful impact on the imaginations of people and to use it contrary to what is scientifically or historical correct is to create an ignorant society.
How could any director make Peraa Ramses II a white Australian actor, Joel Edgerton or Queen Tuya a white woman, Sigourney Weaver? Why is Seti I depicted as being a white actor John Tuturro? So what am I as a historian of Africa to make of this condition except to say, “It was a deliberate falsification of the record as a direct attack on African people.” It was a further assault on truth and history to hear that the director of “Exodus,” Ridley Scott made some stupendous remark about not having money to hire Arab actors, actually he said actors with names “like Mohammed.” Even when there were others speaking to him about the lack of diversity in his cast he could not even then think, “Well, this is a film about an ancient African society!” He still saw it in terms of contemporary politics and money, not in terms of the historical fact that the era of his movie was one where black African people were the dominant society. Of course, we have come to believe that any operation led by Rupert Murdoch will continue to spread the dogma of a white world. As the head of News Corporation that owns 20th Century Fox the very wealthy but not historically intelligent Murdoch tweeted: “Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.” There are many problems with this statement. First, it reveals the lack of historical knowledge of a man who runs one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world. Secondly, the North American continent is racially not what it was five hundred years ago. Thirty five hundred years ago Egypt was entirely a black African country. Murdoch’s tweet is outrageous.
It is like saying “Since when are people in Argentina not white? All I know are.” Such a stupid remark would be an embarrassment since the farther back in the history of that land the more Indians you will find. It is the same with Egypt. Arabs are not indigenous to Africa; they came in force after the 7th century AD from Arabia. Which means that you do not have an Arab presence in Egypt during the time of the movie “Exodus.” But the real problem here is that wealth does not equate with brilliance; it has never been the case and it is not the case now with a Rupert Murdoch who seems to know even less than those he hires about the nature of African history. Clearly we must ramp up the battle to defeat this theft of African history once again until it is generally known that what has been advanced is a lie.
Molefi Kete Asante is the author of Customs and Culture of Egypt, The History of Africa, The Egyptian Philosophers, and co-editor of Egypt v. Greece in the American Academy. Asante is International Organizer of Afrocentricity International. firstname.lastname@example.org www.asante.net, www.mkainstitute.com, www.dyabukam.com