By Bev Manton
Australians know only too well the offence that can be caused by white people trying to depict themselves as black people during performance pieces. Last year's domestic and international furore over the blackface skit on Hey, Hey it's Saturday's Red Faces is a recent case in point.
That said, I don't think it's the most offensive part of the performance. That honour belongs to some of the claims by Domnina and Shabalin that have accompanied it.
They are not, as they state, wearing "authentic Aboriginal paint markings." They are wearing white body paint in designs they dreamed up after reading about Aboriginal Australians on the Internet. The designs are no more "authentic" or "Aboriginal" than the shiploads of cheap, "Aboriginal" tourist trinkets that pour into our country from overseas.
This is not a particularly difficult concept. For art to be Australian, it must be painted by an Australian, and for art to be Australian Aboriginal, it must be painted by an Australian Aboriginal. Russian art is not painted by Italians, and I doubt Russians would be impressed if someone tried to pass it off otherwise.
Below: "Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin perform the routine that has angered indigenous Australians." (Photo: AFP)