Egypt campaign to cancel Kevin Hart comedy show gains steam

The comedian's support of Afrocentrism and its take on ancient Egypt have angered many in the country

Calls for the cancellation of a Kevin Hart show in Cairo has been one of Egypt's top trending topics over the past week. Getty
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Egyptian social media users are calling for the cancellation of a Cairo stand-up show by popular US comedian Kevin Hart because of past Afrocentric comments about ancient Egypt.

A hashtag calling for the cancellation of the show became one of the top trending topics on various social media channels over the past week in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Hart, an African-American, is a vocal proponent of Afrocentrism, an approach to studying world history that aims to highlight the role of black Africans in the shaping of humanity’s narrative, which supporters of the movement say has been played down due to racist academic traditions inherited from Europe.

Egyptians on social media circulated one particular comment by the comedian they say was made during a recent interview in which he highlights the importance of teaching African children about when they were kings of Egypt.

Many also pointed out Hart’s recent partnership deal with Black Sands Entertainment, a media company known for its Afrocentric graphic novels and animated films about African history across the diaspora.

A number of posts also included photos of ancient Egyptian relics in which Egyptians and Africans are shown together with distinctly different facial features.

A tweet by Hart announcing the show in Egypt was met with angry responses from his Egyptian followers, with several telling the comedian he was not welcome in a country whose history he has attempted to rewrite.

Reaction included live streams from younger Egyptian actors such as Youssef Othman, who took to Twitter on Tuesday to explain to his followers what Afrocentrism is and how widespread it is.

Othman said Egyptian audiences might be offended by Hart’s material, which often features provocative comments on African-American experiences.

Some users were more welcoming of the comedian, with a few pointing out that the movement is not aimed at Egypt, but rather as a response to racism that black communities have faced all over the world for centuries.

Afrocentrism, which crystallised in the 1950s as a result of high-octane efforts by African-American activists to achieve equal civil rights with white Americans, has since the 1970s caused controversy with its comments on ancient Egypt. It alleged the civilisation was started by black Africans who had their role in its establishment erased by invading Muslims in the latter half of the first millennium AD.

The movement’s position on Egypt has long drawn criticism from historians and researchers, both Egyptian and foreign.

Zahi Hawass, a former antiquities minister and world-famous Egyptologist, said in a 2021 interview that Afrocentric comments about ancient Egypt are baseless.

However, Mr Hawass conceded that Egypt's brief rule by Kushites, an ancient African kingdom that existed along the Nile Valley in what is now northern Sudan and southern Egypt, during the 25th dynasty (746BC to 653BC) might have stoked the Afrocentric position.

Egypt is an African nation whose 104 million people are ethnically diverse. They are mostly direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians, including dark-skinned Nubians, with a small number from sub-Saharan stock.

There has been no comment either from Hart or organisers R Productions since the show’s announcement.

Tickets went on sale this week.

Updated: December 14, 2022, 2:39 PM