Usually spoken of only in terms of gushing adoration in her home country, Nicole Kidman was roundly criticised yesterday for attempting to play a didgeridoo on German television.
Kidman was persuaded to pick up the didgeridoo during a guest appearance aimed at promoting her new film, Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann. But the light-hearted stunt offended Aboriginal Australians, who accused her of flouting a taboo against women playing the traditional instrument.
One indigenous leader, Richard Green, even warned the actress that her actions could make her infertile. Kidman, who recently gave birth to a daughter fathered by the country singer, Keith Urban, said at the film's Australian premiere that she might give up acting to have more children.
Appearing on Wetten, Dass... ?, a popular chat show known for its pranks, Kidman "blew feebly" into the didgeridoo, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Meanwhile, her co-star, Hugh Jackman, stood on one leg, imitating one of the film's indigenous actors, David Gulpilil.
Their antics caused consternation in Australia, particularly since the movie – in which Kidman plays an English aristocrat who inherits an outback cattle ranch – has strong Aboriginal themes. Alan Madden, cultural and education officer at Sydney's Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, said Kidman should have known better.
"I presume she doesn't know, otherwise she wouldn't be playing it," Mr Madden told the Herald. "But the women on that set would have told her." He added: "Baz should know something about it, after working with those traditional fellas on the film."
Mr Green, an award-winning actor, screenwriter and teacher, expressed disgust. "People are going to see Nicole playing it and think it's all right. It bastardises our culture," he warned. "I will guarantee she has no more children. It's not meant to be played by women, as it will make them barren."
Luhrmann's film had already upset indigenous Australians, thanks to a movie-associated tourism advertisement which showed an actress swimming in a scenic waterfall in the Kimberley region. The King George Falls, a sacred site to local Aborigines, are accessible only by traversing their land, with their permission. A local elder, Ambrose Mungala Chalarimeri, accused Australia's tourism authority of "telling the rest of the world that it is OK to trample all over our culture".
Earlier this year, HarperCollins was forced to apologise to Aboriginal people for including a chapter on how to play the didgeridoo in the Australian edition of The Daring Book For Girls. Accused of "extreme cultural insensitivity", the publisher said the offending chapter would be replaced when the book – a companion volume to the best-selling Dangerous Book For Boys – was reprinted.
Kidman tried for years to have children with her former husband, the Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, but suffered an ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. The couple eventually adopted two children. During the filming of Australia, Kidman became pregnant to her partner, Urban, and in July she gave birth to Sunday Rose.Reuse content