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Romanticizing the Exotic-Early 20th Century Images of Bali
The earliest 20th century writings about Bali come to us by writers such as Holland’s
Gregor Krause (1920), Mexican-American artist and writer Miguel Covarrubias (1937), and one
of Bali’s earliest non-Dutch European residents, German artist Walter Spies (De Zoete and
Spies, 1938). They were exposed to Bali during a time of Dutch colonization. During this time,
the Dutch colonizers, wanting to control what they saw as the wilder tendencies of the Balinese
(van der Kraan, 1985), were attempting to control the Balinese, sometimes through force
and/or law, the way the Balinese acted and dressed. In contrast, these “tourists” were
entranced with what they perceived as the physical beauty of the Balinese people, exotic
religious rituals, arts (including dance, music, and the visual arts – painting and carving), and by
the lush tropical beauty of the island itself. This led to a period of writings romanticizing the
culture and people of Bali. This period ends with the arrival of an early generation of
professional anthropologists. This chapter will present these writings and analyze how they
influenced future studies on the Balinese people and culture, including the critique of such
early writings which continues into contemporary scholarship.
Being “Balinese” in Pre 20th Century Bali
To fully understand Bali in the 20th century, it is necessary to take a deeper look into the
history of the island. Not much is known about the "pre-history" of Bali, the period which predates European contact with the island. Portuguese and British traders first had contact with
the Balinese beginning in the late 14th century. Shards written in Sanskrit have been found on