Little known Central American tribe still hand sews blouse accessories called Molas.

Nov. 13, 2006 – When we mention Panama we think about the Canal, Noriega or hats. Few are familiar with indigenous tribes of this Central American nation. The Kuna Indians is one.

The traditional costume of the women of the tribe consists of a patterned blue cotton wrapped skirt, red and yellow head scarfs, arm and leg beads, gold nose rings and earrings and finely sewn Mola blouse panels.

Mola designs are fashioned after tribal traditions and legends, TV cartoon characters, political posters or labels. Geometric Molas are the most traditional, having developed from ancient body painting designs.

Many hours of hand sewing are required to create a fine Mola. The ability to make a quality Mola is a status symbol among the Kuna women. The value of the piece is determined by:

a. number of layers.
b. fineness of stitching.
c. evenness and width of cutouts.
d. addition of details such as zigzag borders.
e. general artistic merit of the design and colors.

Mola art developed when the Kuna women had access to store bought yard goods. When women tire of a particular blouse they disassemble it and sell the Mola panels o collectors. Therefore, the Mola panel often show signs of wear such as fading and stitch marks along the edges of the panels. These “imperfections” attest to the authenticity of the work, rather than being made solely for sale to the Touristas.

You can sample Molas on our web site

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