Bali’s Expat Beauty Warriors
Despite architectural hacks filling in every vacant lot — and a few not so vacant ones (green belts, for example) — with cheesy modernist schtick, it is to the work of a handful of die-hard traditionalists and classicists that the Balinese design world looks.
Bali has a reputation as the cutting edge of tropical hotel design: the architecture of the tropical world’s hospitality industry follows trends set on the island, trends set by a handful of talented international architects, bamboo house designers, and landscapers.
Every year books pour out of Bali on house and hotel design — both traditional and Bali-modern.
Despite the filling-in of every vacant lot — and a few not so vacant ones (green belts, for example) — by architectural hacks, with cheesy modernist schtick, it is to the work of a handful of die-hard traditionalists and classicists that the Balinese design world looks. Work by Australian architect Martin Grounds (photo left) of Four Seasons Jimbaran fame; by Malaysian Cheong Yew Kuan, who designed the Como Shambala in Payangan; by American Elora Hardy, the fast-rising star of the bamboo house design world; by Italian Carlo Pessina (furniture design); by fashion designer and batik maestro Milo Migliavacca. Other big design names — Kerry Hill, Naguchi, Ed Tuttle — have come and gone over the years and left us with marvels such as the Bali Oberoi, the Amandari, the Amankila, and the Amanusa, all of which continue to inspire the international design world, even though they were all built over 20 years ago.
Kerry Hill Architects alumnus WOHA (Wong Man Sum and Richard Hassel) completed the magnificent Alila Uluwatu in the year 2013. A whole new generation of Indonesians, who were apprenticed to the paleface masters — such as architects Sinta Siregar (Metis) and Putu Edy (Sudamala Sanur) —is doing sensational work.
The gastronomes are keeping pace with the design world too: some of Australia’s most famous restaurants are poised to open branches in Bali, to give some of the now world-famous local eateries a bit of international competition.
It’s impossible keeping up!
25 May 2016: To Alaya Ubud Hotel for the soft opening of their new restaurant, MANISAN
Starting next month, Jakarta celebrity chef William Wongso, an Indonesia cuisine expert, is to run a signature speciality restaurant — dubbed ‘Home of Flavours’ —inside the popular Alaya Ubud resort. British chef Diana von Cranach is also helping the Alaya Ubud with its raw food menu.
There are so many other celebrity chef restaurants in Ubud already, and Ubud recently celebrated its fifth Food Festival, lead by Australian iron-woman Janet de Neefe and her Balinese husband. I must quickly point out that Balinese master chefs can be found in leading hotels all over the tropical world!!
It seems like only yesterday (in fact it was in the early 1970s) that I was going to Ubud to bludge hamburger buns, Blue Brand margarine, and Vegemite from my old buddy, poet/film maker John Darling.
27 May 2016: Men Dharma’s cremation in Kepaon
When I first came to Bali in 1973, I moved in on a Brahman family, not knowing what that was. For years I slept with two brothers about my age on a single bed in a storage shed. In the smallish rural compound there were two elders, in the smallish compound, their wives, and a few young kids. And there was also one very tall, very slender, very dignified elder woman who seemed to be my adopted mum’s lady-in-waiting. Her name was Men Dharma.
I remember being surprised when she re-appeared one night as a priestess in our village temple, the Pura Desa, and even more surprised when she flew into trance at a festival a few weeks later and started talking in high Balinese. But, whatever she did, she was always back at work the next morning, sorting offerings and doing other chores at my home.
Her son, Dharma, grew up and eventually took her place at the temple, where he is now chief priest.
The last few years I’m afraid that I had forgotten about Men Dharma — she had not been seen for years and I assumed that she was dead. The news of her death came as a surprise.
This morning I walk from our new, rather opulent, rather big geria (Brahman palace) — now home to 50 — through a hole in the wall next to the garage and find, among the humble dwellings, our entire village assembled to pay their last respects to this wonderful woman, the spirited Banjar Jaba Jati angklung playing full pelt. My ‘son’ Gus De and his cousin Gung Ngurah from the palace are wrapping themselves into the ubes-ubes white skirt cloths that men wear when they ride atop funeral biers.
I am overwhelmed by the graciousness of Men Dharma’s family, who drag me into the kitchen for a pork feast and Kopi Luwak.
At noon the procession speeds off to the cremation ground: two marching bands and about 500 people. The head of the Kepaon Palace, the ex-head of Bali Police (Kepaon-born), and all the priests from all the local temples are present.
In Bali, it’s not who you are but how you do it that people respect.
18 May 2016: To Bentara Budaya for Gustra’s photography retrospective
Ida Bagus Putra Adnyana (Gustra) is one of Bali’s top photographers.
He is at all the big festivals: generally hanging out, quietly, with the camera corps, now a group of about twenty regulars. (I recently opened a group exhibition they had in Pengosekan — see ‘Stranger in Paradise’, March 2016). Gustra often contributes special sketches to this column.
All the island’s top photographers are here tonight — Rio Helmi, Linggar Saputra Wayan, Pier Poretti — plus biographer Jean Coteau and art connoisseur Gung Rai from the ARMA Gallery, Pengosekan.
The Bentara Budaya Cultural Centre — an off-shoot of the Kompas-Gramedia group — serves coffee and cakes to a packed arena as Gustra premieres his video about his rise to fame from humble beginnings, with assorted tributes from luminaries of the photography world. The exhibition itself features Gustra’s classical works, plus a selection of his mixed-media experiments, some more successful than others.
As the island stages more and more exotic spectaculars and cremations, front-line photographers like Gustra are assured of new subjects for decades to come!
Amor ring acintya.
Bali’s best known high priest died suddenly on 18 May 2016.
I once had the great pleasure of accompanying the late, great Ida Pedanda Gede Made Gunung to a famous Hindu temple in the Dieng plateau, Central Java. We stayed good friends. Whenever I’d bump into him — me the priest paparrazzi, he the megastar — he’d single me out for a smile or a chat.
He was fun to travel with — a gentle giant of a man with deep insights and a seventh sense, which he shared freely. He was particularly loved by Italian fashion designer Milo and the Seminyak acolytes, with whom he often travelled to India and Nepal. One of his most loyal disciples and aides was A.A. Dwijendra Djelantik from Puri Gede Karangasem.
He was a fire-brand preacher and the first T.V. celebrity pedanda, which made sense in the modern age. He was a champion of both environmental conservation and spiritual enlightenment. His sudden death is a huge loss to the Bali Tolak Reklamasi cause.