Comedian Kevin Hart, amid a major international tour, recently had his planned show in Cairo canceled.
A statement by Egyptian event management company R Productions blamed the cancellation on “local production issues.”
However, there is widespread speculation that many Egyptians took offense to Hart’s reported comments about the Black history of Egypt and that this prompted the show’s cancellation.
The Middle East-focused news site Al-Monitor reported that opposition to Hart’s performance in Egypt grew in December when a quote was attributed to him that questioned Egyptian history. “We must teach our children the true history of Black Africans when they were kings in Egypt and not just the era of slavery that is cemented by education in America,” Hart was reported to have said in December, reportedly adding, “Do you remember the time when we were kings?” However, Al-Monitor noted the quote has never been attributed to a particular source, and whether Hart said it is unclear.
Nevertheless, the Middle East Eye noted in December that discourse on social media in Egypt was growing surrounding the quotes, with calls for Hart’s show in the country to be canceled. Most modern Egyptians, like many people in the Middle East and North Africa, identify ethnically as Arab, and many Egyptians see attempts to center Egyptian history on Black Africans as “Afrocentrism” or “Blackwashing” their history. In addition to the quote about the Black kings of Egypt, some critics also knocked Hart for investing in Black Sands Entertainment, a company that produces “Afrocentric” comic books and animated programs, among other products.
Many Egyptians also criticised Hart’s financial backing of an Afrocentric animation series by the company Black Sands Entertainment, which some have accused of “Blackwashing” ancient Egyptian historyhttps://t.co/cPvVZqY1sP
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) February 21, 2023
Modern conceptions of race and ethnicity, such as Black and Arab, did not exist similarly in the ancient world. Scholars have debated Egyptians’ ancestry and physical appearances during the era of the ancient kingdom. Recent genetic testing on Egyptian mummies suggests they were primarily related to people from Near Eastern regions like modern-day Israel, Lebanon or Turkey. Meanwhile, research from ancient texts and artwork suggests Egyptians were ethnically diverse during the era of the ancient pharaohs.
As for Kevin Hart, this controversy has not stopped him from having a very successful international tour. Hart recently did a show in Pretoria, South Africa, where he was joined by South African comedian Trevor Noah, who garnered huge applause.
Last nights show in Pretoria was one for the record books…. My brother @trevornoah surprised the audience with a pop up and got one of the biggest applause’s that I have ever witnessed, I can’t thank you all enough…. Mpho Hart loves South Africa ….Until next time guys!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/4hn3MZ8oAj
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) February 19, 2023
Hart later did his first show in Saudi Arabia as well, so the canceled Egyptian show will likely become a footnote for the comedian. But it is the latest incident in Egypt and online in a longstanding argument over that country’s history and identity.