Discovering Bali through the eyes of Miguel Covarrubias is a documentary in the making which shows the journey described by the Mexican anthropologist and illustrator in-depth in his book which narrates his experiences during his stay on the island. The documentary shows the contrast between Bali in 1937 and the current cultural situation of those who live on the island.
Arriving for the first time on the island of Bali is a mesmerising experience, but leaving the tourist fringe and allowing yourself to become wrapped up in the local culture can be not just an exciting experience but an addictive one too. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to get to know those surviving features of an ancient culture mired in religion, nature and the rituals which co-exist with a contemporary alternative culture of travellers, adventurers and artists enamoured by Bali.
This is even more exciting with illustrator Miguel Covarrubias’ book The Island of Bali in your hands. Living on the island in the 1930s must have been even more amazing and surreal. This rook reflects the love of the author for a deeply-rooted and beautiful culture. Full of symbolism and simplicity all at once. The Island of Bali, published in 1937, continues to be a perfect guide for enthusiasts of popular cultures, and especially that of Bali. On top of the descriptions of local life, temples, dances, music, legends, religion, the relationship between people and nature; the beauty of the book lies in its 114 photos, 90 drawings and 5 paintings which depict the journey Covarrubias took as he engaged himself in and adapted himself to an exotic culture which was essentially unknown in that era. Such was his impression of Bali when he arrived for the first time, thanks to a boat voyage which he made with his wife for their honeymoon, that he ended up staying for 9 months, bewitched by its beauty. But it wasn’t enough. So they returned to New York and Miguel applied for a hugely important scholarship from the Guggenheim to make an anthropological and visual study of the island for one year. This was how his admirable book, The Island of Bali came about, which then became a reference for adventurers and travelers, first in the United States and then the rest of the world. The author himself stated that the book was not a scientific study but a vision of his personal experience of being engulfed in that culture, whioch also included learning the local Malay tongue and the ancient Balinese language.
That an artist as important as Miguel Covarrubias, (famous in New York for being one of the precursors to the Art Deco movement, cartoonist for important newspapers and magazines such as Vanity Fair, illustrator of the covers of Jazz recordings, clothes designer and theatre set artist, photographer and draftsman) would leave his comfortable bourgeois lifestyle to adventure on a remote island of Indonesia shows how entranced and hooked he was for this new world of immeasurable beauty. It is said that this experience transformed Covarrubias from an illustrator to a painter and anthropological humorist.