Bali Bohemia, Ubud, Bali - Indonesia
It was a time when I was losing my strength trying to find my place. And the more I looked, the less I found. In my loves, my artistic practices, my work, my finances. Everything slowly died out in a magnificent inner collapse. What had carried me until then, dreams, imagination, painting, writing, enthusiasm and inspiration hid beyond my reach. I resisted by wandering, my wings broken, my heart crumbled, cramped in my skin, inside and out. I had become a huge void, totally useless to myself and to others. The little that remained of me gathered in the call of the elsewhere. I needed some air and I left the old Europe where I was shrinking. I was going to give myself time and space to bloom, perhaps, again.
It would be Bali, Indonesia. And it was a place. A restaurant.
Backed by Ubud, the artistic and spiritual heart of Bali, lies the tranquil village of Nyuh Kuning, "yellow coconut". We leave the noisy traffic jams of the streets of Ubud and between two stone statues, erected as totems, - one female, the other male - we enter the village territory.
We walk along the "compounds", these small groups of houses where several generations of the same family live, a football field in front of the primary school, shops, a few cafés. In this place stands the severe and benevolent guardian of the village, the great Banyan, the trunk surrounded by white and black checkered fabric.
The air is soft, humid and smells like frangipani flowers.
At the end of the only street that leads to the Sacred Monkey Forest, a restaurant open to the street, its high roof supported by brightly coloured columns.
We climb a few steps, like a magic portal that leads to another world.
Here, there is no inside. The outside is everywhere and circulates on the wings of the air in a mixture of sounds, music, scents and colours.
Orange, green, yellow, and red embrace each other and are reflected in a curtain of glass beads hanging above the bar.
On one of the coloured walls, the paintings of a local artist are displayed for a while, offering his vision of the world and beauty. A giant painting wall, and always new.
At 7:00 in the morning, I sit on one of the chairs with the old soft leather. Yes, here, even the seats have a soul.
Bali Kopi. While drinking my coffee, I slip into the flow, Indonesian flute, "La Bohème" sung in Arabic, African rhythms, Cape Verdean rhythms, Latin America. The whole world comes and goes all day long with the breeze, voices and music.
I enjoy slices of fresh fruit, watermelon, papaya, pineapple that play a living painting on my wooden plate.
An old man, every morning, carries the flowers of the day in a huge bag. He delicately places each flower on the steps, on the tables; hibiscus, white or pink flowers of the frangipani trees, large orange carnations, like offerings so that Heaven is not forgotten in the daily affairs of men.
Nearby, the monkeys shout and make the forest shiver by running on the highest branches of the trees. Sometimes one of them comes to a plate to steal a piece of fruit.
During the day, we meet each other, we exchange with neighbours, friends, travellers, artists, writers. We eat Indonesian and Mediterranean food, fresh produce, a simple straightforward cuisine that smells of sun, spices and the owners’ roots.
In the evening, the organically shaped wooden plates come out of the kitchen like canvases that have just been painted. A thousand flavours, so many colours, there is a nasi goreng decorated with kroepuk and sour condiments, there are chicken skewers with saté, a tray of Lebanese delicacies. I enjoy a glass of fresh white wine in my hand, reveling in the tastes and smiles from all over the world. The artists mingle with musicians, singers and dancers passing through, the jams follow one another. It seems that everyone is a painter, sculptor or musician. In Bali, you are an artist as you are a craftsman.
On contact with them, everything slowly opened up inside me, the locks were broken, I rediscovered this grace that makes one want to create and share with those around us.
I lean over my notebook and to the sound of flutes, voices and tabla, my inspiration blends with that of others, colours gush out, ink flows and joy dances.