by Marlowe Bandem: Coming up on the 18th of March at the Rio Helmi Photo Gallery & Café Ubud: the Bali 1928 Archives photo exhibition titled “Photographic Images from the Beginnings of Bali’s Modern History”. The exhibition will be jointly presented by The Bali School of Information Management and Computer Engineering (STMIK STIKOM Bali) and the reputed Indonesian photographer, Rio Helmi, at Rio Helmi Photo Gallery & Café, Ubud, from the 18th to 27th March 2016.

The collection of photographs on display is the result of documentation work carried out by Dr. Edward Herbst, Arbiter of Cultural Traditions New York, together with STMIK STIKOM Bali.

Bali Archives 1928 is the result of the restoration, dissemination and repatriation of Bali’s artistic and cultural heritage from the nineteen thirties. It includes dozens of ‘long lost recordings’, commercial gramophone records that were first recorded in Bali between 1928-29 by the German gramophone company, Odeon & Beka, as well as 16 mm silent black and white films that were produced by influential researchers such as Colin McPhee, Miguel Covarrubias, and Rolf de Maré, and also, the legacy of vast photographic coverage of Bali during the nineteen thirties, documented by Colin McPhee, Walter Spies, Arthur Fleischmann, Jack Mershon, and others.

Bali Archives 1928 began with the assiduous efforts of Dr. Edward Herbst, who spent years visiting various archives around the world, collecting 1928-29 Bali gramophone recordings. The quality of the recordings was then restored by Allan Evans from Arbiter of Cultural Traditions in New York, and film clips were edited by the Bali STMIK STIKOM team under the direction of video editor Ridwan Rudianto. The results of this unrelenting work were then reformatted into five CD and DVD volumes, accompanied by Dr. Edward Herbst’s documentation of research results.


STMIK STIKOM Bali, in collaboration with Rio Helmi, will be exhibiting a series of this memorabilia in the form of a collection of photographs that were collected and repatriated, ‘returned home’, due to the extraordinary and invaluable efforts of the Bali 1928 Archives team.

Rio Helmi’s involvement goes beyond simply curating the exhibition -selecting, arranging and presenting; he has also been actively engaged in restoring the quality of the photographs, including carrying out adjustments, cropping and printing the digital files that have been entrusted to Bali Archives 1928 by archive centres around the world. Given the quality of most of the digital files that are no longer in their original format or even hi-res, printing is no ordinary process. It needs to be carried out using specific archival photographic paper that avoids rapid fading and ensures a long life span.

Working within the boundaries imposed by the original media, Rio Helmi has attempted to recall an authentic and accurate historical context of modern Bali in the nineteen thirties, while at the same time infusing it with new life.

For Rio Helmi, this exhibition of restored visual richness of the Bali of the nineteen thirties is very central, bearing in mind that these very images represent a passage in time when a generation of Balinese elders staged a creative rebellion, they were courageous, they were dedicated, and most of all, they were open to the changes in times.

The youthful images of Ida Bagus Oka Kerebuak, Marya, Kaler, Lotring, Ni Gusti Putu Rengkeg, Ni Pempen, and others, are truly poignant and evocative. They recall the persistent renaissance of Balinese arts throughout time.

The exhibition will open on Friday, 18th March 2016, at 6 pm at Rio Helmi Photo Gallery & Café, Jalan Suweta 6B, Ubud, Bali. Over the exhibition period that will extend from Friday, 18th March up until 27th March 2016, over 30 reproductions of old photographs will be put on display, accompanied by recordings and films relating to Bali 1928. Discussions will also be held on various occasions.

These sharing sessions include:

  1. Saturday, March 19, 2016|16:00 to 18:00-Presentation onBali1928,”Bali 1928: Retrievingthe PastforaCreativeFuture” by Dr. Edward Herbst, the principal researcherof Bali1928.
  2. Sunday, 20 March 2016 | 16.00-18.00 – Meeting / discussion with Rio Helmi, “The World of Visual Archives”, with emphasis on the importance of archives and audio-visual documentation in Bali.
  3. Wednesday, 23 Maret 2016 | 16.00-18.00 – Marlowe Bandem, Bali 1928 Coordinator for Bali will share his experience of Bali 1928 in “The Magnitude of Bali”

During the length of the exhibition, Rio Helmi Photo Gallery & Café will also give public viewings of Bali 1928 film clips that have been restored and edited, using documentation by Colin Mcphee, Miguel Covarrubias and Rolf de Maré.

The subject matter of these films is not limited to Bali’s natural environment in the 1930s; the films also speak of legendary Balinese historical personages and gamelan assemblages such as Ida Boda, I Marya, I Sampih, I Gede Manik, Gong Jineng Dalem, Ida Pedanda Made Sidemen, I Gusti Ketut Kandel, I Made Sarin, Ni Nyoman Polok & Ni Luh Ciblun (Légong Kelandis), The Palégongan Kapal Gamelan, Ni Gusti Made Rai & Ni Gusti Putu Adi (Légong Belaluan), I Wayan Lotring (the gendér wayang gamelan from Kuta), and more.

Further footage includes the Barong Kebon Kuri performance, the Gambang staged at Kawaitan Kelaci Temple, the Légong Saba, the Luang Singapadu Gamelan Gong, the Goak Jangkrang Baris, Nusa Penida, Janger Kedaton, the Batuan Gamelan Geguntangan, Barong Landung, Jangér, and more.

Some significant rituals such as the ceremony of Nangkluk Mrana, Pura Beda, the Jogéd Bungbung Dewa in Tabanan, the Mendet at the Pura Dalam (the Temple of Ancestors) at Sayan, Ubud, as well as various other temple and cremation ceremonies are also included in these films.

Snippets of dance offerings by Walter Spies and Katharane Mershon, Colin McPhee and Jane Belo’s visit to Singapore and Surabaya, Rosa Covarrubias dressed in customary Balinese attire, will also feature in the films shown on a daily basis over the length of the exhibition.

On an explanatory note, Colin McPhee (1900-1964) was a Canadian composer and pianist who first came across a few examples of the Odeon recordings when he settled in New York around 1930. In his memoirs, A House in Bali, he wrote, “I would never have imagined that a few (vinyl) records would change the entire course of my life, urging me, impelling me, to come here to find this music and this particular experience that is so difficult to describe…” McPhee and his wife, Jane Belo, who was also an anthropologist, arrived in Bali in 1931 where they carried out research up until 1938. A part of the films made by McPhee will be shown during the exhibition.

Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957) was a cartoonist, illustrator and painter from Mexico who resided in Bali during the nineteen thirties, accompanied by his wife, Rosa Covarrubias. He carried out research on the natural environment, art, language, and customs of Bali. His book, Island of Bali, was one of the written works that brought Bali to the attention of international communities, primarily in New York. His book includes the photographic work of Rosa Covarrubias.

Rolf de Maré (1888 – 1964) was a world renowned art collector of Swedish origin. He was able to collect 49,000 feet of 16-mm film footage on dance in Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in space of a single year, 1937 -1938.

The exhibition and discussion sessions are open to the public. Admission is free.

Car  parking (with parking fee during daylight hours) is available at the Central Parking on Jalan Suweta located 100 meters north of the gallery.


images ©Bali 1928 archives