French-born Alizee Sery had a friend film her climbing Uluru, stripping off and dancing in bikini bottoms, cowboy boots and a bushman’s hat. The video, which appeared on a Northern Territory news site, has sparked outrage among Australia’s indigenous leaders, who have likened Sery’s actions to someone “defacating on the steps of the Vatican”.
Sery was unapologetic, claiming that her performance was a “tribute” to the traditional owners. “My project is a tribute to the greatness of the Rock. What we need to remember is that traditionally, the Aboriginal people were living naked,” Sery told the Sunday Territorian newspaper, which broke the story. “So stripping down was a return to what it was like. I do not mean in any way for this video to offend the Aboriginal culture. I am aware that Uluru is sacred in their culture.”
Climbing Uluru was “one of those things that we must experience in a lifetime”, Sery said. “I thought that if I’m only going to climb the Rock once in my entire life, when I reach the top I must do something out of the ordinary, something catchy, something crazy,” she said. “I want to give people the courage to believe in themselves. If I can do a strip on Ayer’s Rock, then anything is possible.”
But Alison Hunt, a member of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management, was “angry and disgusted”, she said. “It’s not a tribute to the traditional owners, it’s an insult. This is an important spiritual place. We try to share our land and work together and we think it is disgusting for someone to try and make money out of our sacred land.”
The traditional owners of Uluru ask visitors not to climb the rock because ancient Dreamtime spiritual lines cross the site. The owners the local Anangu people also feel a sense of responsibility for the safety of those who undertake the rigorous climb, which continues to claim lives.
The Central Land Council, which represents the traditional owners, has called on the Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to deport the dancer.
That may not be necessary, however, because Sery says she may now set her sights on the Great Wall of China as she “works her way round the world one bra strap at a time”.