Western scholars and artists converged on the tropical island of Bali, Indonesia, in the first half of the 20th century attracted by its unique culture and vibrant artistic practices. This exhibition considers the making and use of textiles as ceremonial objects that operate within a unique Balinese Hindu cosmology while exploring the role of textiles as symbols of cultural resilience and continuity. On view will be exquisite and rare pieces assembled from collections in the United States, including examples from the American Museum of Natural History that were collected by anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson during their fieldwork in Bali. Deriving their aesthetic and ritual powers from techniques of fabrication and use in various lifecycle ceremonies, these textiles also serve as records of an important period in Balinese history. Drawing on information from the 1930s and recent research, the exhibition presents an overview of Balinese textiles and encourages visitors to consider the value of these objects as they are made and used today.


A Focus Project curated by Urmila Mohan, Bard Graduate Center/AMNH Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology. Focus Projects are small-scale academically rigorous exhibitions and publications that are developed and executed by Bard Graduate Center faculty and postdoctoral fellows in collaboration with students in our MA and PhD programs.


Exhibition Website


Explore three Balinese ceremonies that mark major stages in an individual’s life—Nelubulanin and Otonan (three-month and one-year ceremonies, respectively), Metatah (toothfiling ceremony), and Ngaben (cremation ceremony). Special ceremonies and rituals ensure that the subject passes successfully from one stage to the next. They include textiles, objects, and substances, as well as family and community participation. The ceremonial wrapping of people and objects in fabric mediates the invisible forces of the divine and the demonic, strengthens and protects the bodies of participants, and animates objects for ritual use.

Launch the exhibition website