The Colorful History Behind Panama’s Mola

Panama
is
a
nation
full
of
colorful
imagery,
from
the
aquamarine
seas
lapping
at
the
country’s
coastlines
to
the
deep
green
canopy
of
rainforests
shrouding
its
interior.
But
perhaps
the
most
iconic
example
of
its
vibrancy
is
a
traditional
garment
known
as
a

mola
.

For
centuries,
the
Guna
(previously
known
as
Kuna),
an
Indigenous
group
residing
in
Panama
and
parts
of
neighboring
Colombia,
have
been
creating
colorfully
embroidered
clothing.
A

mola
,
which
translates
to
“shirt”
in
the
Guna
language,
is
a
piece
of
traditional
dress
typically
worn
by
women
and
known
for
its
bright
colors
and
intricate
designs
depicting
flowers,
birds,
reptiles,
animals
and
other
emblems
indicative
of
Mother
Nature.
The
textile
art
began
in
the
San
Blas
Islands,
an
archipelago
off
the
northern
coast
of
Panama
that’s
part
of
the
Guna
Yala
Region,
where
many
Guna
people
continue
to
live.

close-up of mola
A
mola
is
known
for
its
bright
colors
and
intricate
designs
depicting
flowers,
birds,
reptiles,
animals
and
other
emblems
indicative
of
Mother
Nature.

traveler1116/Getty
Images

While
there’s
no
exact
record
of
when
the
first
mola
was
made,
many
historians
believe
that
the
colorful
custom
stemmed
from
a
different
form
of
art
that
was
common
within
the
Indigenous
community:
body
painting.

“At
one
time,
the
Guna
people
used
body
painting
to
keep
away
evil
spirits,”
says
Yanelis
Ledezma,
a
tour
guide
at
the

Museo
de
la
Mola
(MUMO)

in
Panama
City.
“Ladies
would
draw
symbols
and
signs
on
the
bodies
of
their
family
members.
The
Guna
believe
that
the
universe
is
divided
into
multiple
levels,
and
that
there
are
no
empty
spaces,
so
their
designs
have
to
continue
from
the
front
to
back
to
keep
away
evil
spirits.
Eventually,
these
same
patterns
were
implemented
into
the
molas.”

woman sewing a mola
Using
reverse
appliqué, a
single
shirt
can
take
anywhere
from
60
to
80
hours
of
labor
to
sew. 

Ducoin
David/Getty
Images

Making
a
mola
the
traditional
way
isn’t
for
the
faint
of
heart,
and
Ledezma
estimates
that
a
single
shirt
can
take
anywhere
from
60
to
80
hours
of
labor
to
sew.
To
create
each
garment,
women
and
girls
use
a

technique

called
reverse
appliqué,
which
involves
layering
two
or
more
fabrics
of
different
colors
and
sewing
them
together,
then
using
a
pair
of
scissors
to
carefully
snip
away
parts
of
each
layer
to
reveal
the
design.
Next,
they
use
fabric
remnants
to
fill
in
each
layer,
creating
a
striking
geometric-like
form.
The
more
layers
used,
the
more
complex
the
final
piece,
which
is
adorned
with
intricate
embroidery
sewn
by
hand.
Often,
the
base
fabric
of
a
piece
is
black
to
help
emphasize
the
other
colors
and
make
them
pop
on
the
finished
garment.

The
art
of
creating
a
mola
is
something
that’s
handed
down
from
one
generation
of
Guna
women
to
the
next,
with
grandmothers
and
mothers
introducing
the
art
form
to
young
girls.

“The
first
thing
I
taught
my
three
daughters
was
to
draw
the
mola,”
says
Gloria
Esperanza
Martínez
in
a

video

created
by
the
Museo
del
Oro
in
Bogotá,
Colombia.
“When
they
come
home
from
school,
they
saw
me
sewing
molas.
Then
they
began
to
play
with
molas,
whereas
Western
girls
play
with
dolls.”

molas hanging
The
art
of
making
a
mola
is
something
that’s
handed
down
from
one
generation
of
Guna
women
to
the
next.

alantobey/Getty
Images

While
mass-market
molas
emblazoned
with
Coca-Cola
bottles
and
other
pop
culture
icons
can
be
found
in
markets
and
stores
throughout
Panama—brands
such
as
Nike
have
even
been

accused

of
cultural
appropriation
by
taking
mola
designs
and
emblazoning
them
on
sneakers—most
Guna
women
continue
to
make
their
own
garments
in
the
same
fashion
as
their
ancestors
once
did.
These
artists
are
keeping
the
art
form
alive
for
future
generations.

“It
takes
a
lot
of
time
to
make
a
mola,”
Ledezma
says.
“Ladies
will
visualize
the
finished
mola
in
their
mind
and
create
everything
from
hand
without
using
any
sort
of
patterns
or
sketches.
They
visually
know
where
to
put
each
piece
of
fabric
in
the
correct
place,
and
the
result
is
a
beautiful
piece
of
art.”

Tourists
can
purchase
authentic
molas
at
a
number
of
places
in
Panama,
including
Centro
Nacional
de
Artesanías,
a
handcrafts
market,
and
Mi
Pueblito,
a
park
that
features
folklore
exhibits,
both
in
Panama
City,
according
to

Culture
Trip
.
Closer
to
home,
several
museums
in
the
United
States
feature
molas
in
their
collections,
such
as
Smithsonian’s

National
Museum
of
the
American
Indian

in
New
York
City
and
the

William
Benton
Museum
of
Art

on
the
University
of
Connecticut
campus
in
Storrs,
Connecticut.

mola on a woman
Many
historians
believe
that
the
colorful
custom
stemmed
from
body
painting.

Priscila
Zambotto/Getty
Images

The
Museo
de
la
Mola
counts
more
than
300
molas
in
its
collection,
with
more
than
half
currently
on
display.
It’s
also
the
only
museum
in
the
world
solely
dedicated
to
the
subject.
During
a
museum
tour,
visitors
can
learn
more
about
the
history
of
the
mola,
their
cultural
significance
to
the
country
of
Panama
and
how
the
Guna
people
have
held
fast
to
their
traditions,
even
when
faced
with
adversity.

This
was
the
case
during
the

San
Blas
Rebellion

(commonly
known
as
the
Guna
Revolution),
an
uprising
by
Guna
leaders
that
took
place
over
the
course
of
three
months
in
1925.
The
newly
seated
Panamanian
government
attempted
(and
failed)
to
strip
the
Guna
people
of
their
long-held
cultures
and
traditions
through
assimilation
after
Panama
declared
independence
from
Colombia.
This
included
restricting
Guna
women
from
wearing
their
traditional
dress
and
forcing
them
to
wear
more
modern
clothing.

“It
was
important
for
them
to
revolt
and
defend
their
culture,
including
making
and
wearing
molas,”
Ledezma
says.
“To
this
day
the
Guna
people
are
known
and
recognized
for
their
bravery.
The
mola
is
more
than
a
piece
of
clothing,
it’s
an
important
part
of
being
part
of
the
Guna
community.”

Artikel ini diambil dari https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-colorful-history-behind-panamas-mola-180980536/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *