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About Mola

The Mola Story

A short 30 minute flight from Panama City will take you several centuries back into the past, as you visit the San Blas Islands of the Kuna people, who still keep their old lifestyle and traditions.

The Archipelago is composed of over three hundred islands, some inhabited, some not, some named others remaining nameless to this day, all of them surrounded with crystal clear waters. It is Paradise found.

The Kuna people wear dresses adorned with hand made molas, as well as colored bead ornaments on their wrists and ankles. Chains, pectorals, a red headress, and gold noserings complete their every-day attire.

 

Your adventure at San Blas could be a stay at an uninhabited island, a fishing tour, dancing and traditional rites, diving and spear-gun fishing, the enjoyment of the crystalline waters or merely the peace of a hammock swung by the wind.

But to complete your visit you will undoubtably purchase a souvenir mola to remember your adventure.

Molas are undoubtedly the most famous art produced in Panama. The Kuna women have been sewing these works of art for years. They incorporate them into their clothing, usually with one mola serving as the front of the blouse, and another for the back. The mola is often described as a reverse appliqué. For each color of cloth that you see there is a piece of cloth of that color sewn into the mola. Each mola is hand-stitched with thousand of stitches. The theme of the mola is determined by the imagination of the artist.

 

Once assembled, they are placed on both the lower front and lower back of a blouse. These colorful blouses are only part of the daily attire worn by the Kuna women of Central America. The mola blouses, and mola panels, in and of themselves, have come to be prized collectibles among textile enthusiasts and museums.

The way that Kuna women dress has come to symbolize their Kuna culture. In addition to mola blouses, women wear imported red and yellow head scarves, wrap around skirts, gold nose rings and earrings, and rectangular units of decorative beads which encircle calves and forearms. In addition, a black stripe is painted on the nose and runs the full length of it. This practice is thought to enhance beauty, and is a reminder of the more extensive body painting practices of former times. Women sometimes paint their faces with a rouge made from achiote seeds. Mola making itself originated with the Kuna in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Unalike Mola panels are made in pairs, although they are purposely not exactly alike. The Kuna believe that everything in the universe comes in pairs, but like man and woman, each is dissimilar. Molas themselves, which possess numerous layers of cloth, seem to be symbolically representative of the Kuna legends about how the earth was created in various colored layers. An example of two similar yet incongruent molas are shown here in this pair that feature geometric patterns.
Our representatives personally know the Kuna artists and have purchased thousands of Molas so that you too can appreciate this rare and delicate art form. The only REAL molas are the hand-sewn molas of the Kuna people, accept no substitutions, these are the real McCoy!