The Art of the Mola
Molas (handcrafted blouses) are made from several layers of brightly colored cotton cloth. Kuna women create these works of art using a technique of cutting and sewing sometimes referred to as reverse appliqué. The way the cloth is cut reveals the layers beneath, which all go into creating the overall design.
Designs can be abstract or representational. The best designs are such works of art that mola-making has been described as painting with a needle.
What should you look for in a mola? Anthropologist Mari Lyn Salvador conducted a study in which she asked Kuna women themselves that question. A few of her findings:
- • The design should be balanced and all the spaces filled.
- • The lines should be thin and evenly spaced, with smooth edges.
- • Stitches should be small, even, and nearly invisible.
- • The design should stand out and be easy to see, which is largely a matter of the proper use of contrast and color.
For more information on Kuna arts and culture, see The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama (UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History), edited by Mari Lyn Salvador.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition