In a sarcastic Facebook post on Monday morning, controversial Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr took aim at a historical British TV series that last year sparked debate after casting a black actress as King Henry VIII’s wife Anne Boleyn.
Boleyn was beheaded after being found guilty of treason against her husband. Among other things she had been accused of sleeping with several men, including her brother, and plotting to murder her husband. Historians largely agree that the charges were spurious and she was framed.
When black British actress Jodie Turner-Smith was cast to play the ill-fated queen in a new historical series, some critics questioned this, arguing that any white person cast to play a historical figure – even a nonpolitical one such as Ray Charles – would meet with huge backlash.
In Hofmeyr’s opinion, Turner-Smith had been cast supposedly to make “blacks feel better about their historical paralysis”, he said, writing in Afrikaans.
He said that, at this rate, soon only Zulu actors would be allowed to audition for the role of the famous Boer general De La Rey and only men would be allowed to play Emily Hobhouse, the British woman who became an Afrikaner hero after exposing the appalling conditions of concentration camps during and after the Anglo-Boer War.
Hofmeyr joked that he would personally gladly play Shaka Zulu, “but unfortunately I’m a man”.
He hadn’t personally met many black people, he added, for whom “spoon-feeding patronising” was important.
“Someone is making it up. And I think it’s whites.”
Indian-born Merle Oberon was actually the first non-white actress to play Anne Boleyn, back in 1933, in the film The Private Life of Henry VIII. She, however, went to great pains to mask her true ethnicity by claiming she was Australian.
In typical Hofmeyr fashion, his Facebook post went on to complain that, according to him, during the apartheid years life expectancy had been higher (which is only partly, but mostly not, true), there had been less rape (impossible to verify), fewer deaths in police custody, less unemployment and fewer murders … then he wanted to know “which parts of our past were a crime against humanity”.
Edited and with translations by Charles Cilliers