Miguel Covarrubias was a Mexican artist and writer, born in 1904, who lived in New York City. He is best known for his artwork and iconography, that shed light on the pre-Colombian art of Mesoamerica. Here in Bali, he is known for writing The Island Of Bali, a work that gives great insight as to the cultural workings of Bali in the 1930’s.
Miguel Covarrubias wrote Island of Bali is 1939. It is to this day the best account of life in Bali in the 1930’s and Balinese culture in general. Miguel managed to lay out a very personal impression of Bali and writes in a way that relates to his readers. He doesn’t come across like a professor, coughing up boring facts and unpronounceble names, instead he speaks as though he was discovering the island for the first time.
Covarrubias was a caricature artist as well as a writer and his work can be seen at the Neka museum in Ubud. The time he moved to Bali is refered to as the Golden Age of Bali by westerners. Certainly it was for the arts scene with people such as Colin McFee, Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonet learning and adapting Balinese music and art.
Miguel Covarrubias and his wife managed to get great access to the local Balinese culture. They lived with a Balinese family and had the time to observe daily life, ceremonies and get to know people. Covarrubias returned to America after 1936 and died in 1957. In all he was quite a talented guy, a clear writer, good artist who could excel equally at caricature, as a regular drawing. Island Of Bali is still one of the ‘must reads’ when talking about Balinese culture.