A conversation with Maya Boyd

A virtuosa of the written word, Maya Boyd is a travel journalist specialising in Ibiza and Formentera. Author of Assouline’s ‘Ibiza Bohemia’, Editorial Director of L’Officiel Ibiza and a regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveller, Maya’s free-spirited nature embodies the true essence of Ibiza. She shares with ‘The Modernist’ her knowledge of and respect for the island’s rich culture, history and heritage.

Which are your earliest memories of the island? Is there a particular place that evokes those memories?

My dad lived in Ibiza in the 1960s and 1970s, so I grew up hearing really fascinating, romantic stories about his life in a commune near Cala Llonga, living with all these American guys who were dodging the Vietnam war. So, my earliest memories of Ibiza aren’t really my memories, they’re his but I grew up with them from childhood. I came to Ibiza for the first time with my sister and her boyfriend when I was 14.  We stayed in a little apartment building in San Antonio doing all the things that you do at that age, going to Manumission, Pacha. We made our own outfits for Manumission! Coming from a little town in the North of England it was really eye-opening. Dad’s house had no electricity and guitars were played by candlelight. He says they spent less in a year, at that time, than in a week now. It was so special.

A place that always reminds me of these first early trips is Sa Capella. When I was about 15, we saved to have dinner there. It was my first experience of a sort of traditional but upmarket Ibizan restaurant and the magic of it has never left me. The big windows and the drive up there were something I’d never seen or felt anywhere else. Even now, going back there I still feel as I did the first time.

 

Foto de Katy Cao en Unsplash

The hippie revolution and tourism have had an important impact on the island. Has Ibizan folklore been preserved and how can we honour its customs and traditions?

No, sadly, it hasn’t all been preserved. Ibiza’s folklore and mythology, rural heritage and traditions are probably more at risk now than ever. Keeping a country’s folklore and mythology alive is a huge part of keeping its native culture alive. In Ibiza, it’s really important to preserve it and that’s what I try and do with ‘Ibiza Insights’, as my friend Joanna also tries to do in ‘Theatre of the Ancients’. It’s thanks to those working behind the scenes that cultural traditions are brought to a wider audience. Before I started ‘Ibiza Insights’ there few events available in the English language, only in Spanish and Catalan.

 

‘Ibiza Insights’ are a series of small and low-key events designed for those who feel a really deep connection to Ibiza and are interested in its history. Many of the people who come to the talks are children of foreign parents who have grown up here and I try to pay a tribute to them. Ibiza is not just about the flashy happenings or new openings.
The local community is flourishing in terms of art, history and culture. Exhibitions, displays of local traditions and even the celebration of saints’ feast days in the villages, are so much fun, especially with children. You can take your guests and visitors to the heritage sights like the church at San Miguel, or Dalt Vila. There really is no better place to talk about heritage. Or simply a walk out in the campo can take you past houses that are three hundred years old, wells that have been in use since the times of the Phoenicians or Moorish irrigation channels. Ibiza is fortunate in that a lot of its’ physical history is still standing. I also really love Ibiza’s 70s and 80s history, places like the hippy markets, especially Es Canar, las Dalias. They bring together the unique mix of people that make Ibiza what it is.

What do you think it is about the island that attracts such a diverse group of artistic and creative individuals?

People are completely at liberty to come here and create the life of their choice, the life of their dreams. The only limit is imagination. You can have billionaires and backpackers sitting at the same table and that doesn’t represent a barrier because people are exchanging ideas. Currency in Ibiza is nothing to do with money. It’s about showing up for your community and friends. It’s about contributing according to your talents or abilities. It can be growing food or coming up with ideas, making films or sweeping the steps. Ibiza’s community is built on people coming here with a shared sense of how they want to live in tune with nature and one another.

So, would you say that Ibiza has remained faithful to the notion of timelessness and authenticity?

Yes, I think so. Ibiza is one of those places where you can go from being in the best nightclubs or restaurants in the world to walking down a lane, past a well which has been in use for a thousand years, or see a woman dressed in black knocking almonds off a tree. That is the kind of magic that keeps pulling people back to Ibiza because these two worlds are unique, existing side by side while either one on its own would already be magnificent and remarkable.

 

How has Ibiza engaged with modern lifestyles and where do you think Ibiza is going from here?

Ibiza is fascinating because it is steeped in ancient culture yet has embraced very modern ideas from very early on. As early as the 1930s, you had people like Erwin Broner and Erwin Brechtold, Raoul Haussmann, the Dadaists and the Bauhaus crew from Berlin. They were bringing new architectural and artistic views to an island that had essentially remained unchanged for about 700 years. Not only were they not rejected, but they were also able to explore those ideas. If you go up into Sa Penya, the fishermen’s quarter just below Dalt Vila, you have centuries-old houses clinging to the cliff alongside Erwin Broner’s architectural marvel of the 1960. It’s interesting because these clean lines and a very primitive minimalist outlook is echoed in the modernist movement of the 1950s with its angles, white walls, light and space. It’s the dichotomy of the modernist world and the ancient world, side by side, honouring each other. Hopefully, Ibiza can continue to strike a balance between the rich culture of the past and the progressive modern island.

…Casa Broner was constructed by German architect and painter Erwin Broner in 1960 and plays a key part in Balearic modern architecture. He was fascinated by Ibizan rural architecture, specifically by its functionality, simplicity, and harmony with the environment. The creation of Casa Broner was influenced by the Bauhaus movement, le Corbusier and a rational and functional design. The design, with use of traditional Ibizan materials creates a perfect dialogue with the fortified walls where it was constructed and the island’s traditional architecture. The only disruptive element can be found on the roof where he installed two semicircular pieces both for aesthetic reasons and privacy.
Visit Casa Broner (link to: https://eivissa.es/mace/index.php/en/contact).

 

Foto de Peter Gombos en Unsplash

Can you share a special place in Ibiza that inspires you?

For me the place I return to, time and time again, is Balàfia. That little enclave of houses is steeped in history and was built for a purpose. It protected the inhabitants from pirates and the whitewashed crosses were to ward off evil spirits. That cluster of houses is a reminder of what Ibiza must have been like in earliest times right up until a hundred years ago when it was completely self-sufficient with a deeply held sense of place and community. There is a beautiful well there and the restaurant itself, Camí de Balafia has always been my favourite. Dinner there, beneath those olive and orange trees with the twinkly lights, the chatter of the families, the djs and the incredible mix of people is a beautiful experience.

MACE, the contemporary art museum in Dalt Vila is another of my favourite places. It is in an old ammunitions storehouse within the castle walls. It couldn’t be more atmospheric and has a phenomenal collection of mid-century art from Ibiza’s Grupo 59 as well as all the visiting artists. It captures that artistic and modernist spirit of the 1950s. The foundations are built into an archaeological site with a glass floor so you can see the archaeological foundations below.