Monday, January 25, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

That is Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin at the European figure skating championships recently; the Russian pair are hotly tipped for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Their outfits and dance routine, inspired by Australian Aboriginal traditional culture, have not gone down too well with the people they claim to be paying tribute to.

"They have got the whole thing wrong," said Stephen Page, artistic director of the respected indigenous group, the Bangarra Dance Company. Page said there were no traditional movements in the routine, the music sounded more like it came from India or Africa than Aboriginal Australia and the body paint looked like "a three-year-old child had drawn it on"... "Probably the elders in the bush would be laughing because they would be saying, 'Look how stupid these fellas are,' " he said.

Bev Manton, a representative of the Worimi nation in New South Wales, had this to say:

“From an Aboriginal perspective, this performance is offensive. It was clearly not meant to mock Aboriginal culture, but that does not make it acceptable to Aboriginal people,” she wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “There are a number of problems with the performance, not least of all the fact that both skaters are wearing brown body suits to make their skin appear darker. That alone puts them on a very slippery slope.”
I have little to no interest in ice-skating, so I don't have a lot to say about this one. But brown body suits? Really?

And it's also a good thing to be REALLY familiar with something before you try and mimic it, if you want to capture any kind of authenticity at all. And no, watching videos on Youtube, as Domnina and Shabalin did, does not really qualify as research.


  1. Awesome!
    A bit like Borat crossed with Ricky Wong from We Can Be Heroes-


    Indigeridoo Indigeridoo
    Indigeri digeri digeridoo

    Aborigine me
    Aborigine you
    We're not just the people who eat kangaroo."

  2. To be honest, the whole idea behind presenting a culture in 2 minute ice skating program wasn't the smartest one.

    Is there a way to present a culture without using stereotypes? Without being offensive (even with good intentions)?

    Plus, some people don't understand that "noble savage" stereotype is a harmful one, not much (if any) better than "dumb uncivilized wild man" one.

    I must point, though, that Oksana's suit wasn't brown. It's the same shade as her skin colour I think.

  3. They remind me of the brother and sister duo from the Will Ferrell movie Blades of Glory.

  4. Isn't this just bizarre? What made them think this was okay?