All posts are copyright Barbara Rogers 2018. Please ask if you wish to share, and give attribution to the author.My ancestry and more personal notes are now at a revised version of "When I Was 75."

Monday, February 29, 2016

My mola

Molas—the colorful appliqué patterns of the Kuna Indians—originated in the San Blas Islands of Panama. The mola or molas, forms part of the traditional outfit of a Kuna woman, two mola panels being incorporated as front and back panels in a blouse.

My mola was purchased in a kiosk in a shopping mall in the 90's.  I also bought an embroidered T-shirt.

In Dulegaya, the Kuna's native language, "mola" means "shirt" or "clothing". The mola originated with the tradition of Kuna women painting their bodies with geometrical designs, using available natural colours; in later years these same designs were woven in cotton, and later still, sewn using cloth bought from the European settlers of Panamá.

A layer of cloth, cut through from the black topping to the next colorful layer, with the edges stitched down.  But there are also added pieces appliqued onto the fabric with embroidery added.

The subject is certainly confusing to me.  A person on the lower right perhaps.  A whale shape on lower left, with a anthropormorphized being in the center with long arms going up to floral patterns with a butterfly in the center.  I'll go with it all being about nature!

Molas have their origin in body painting. Only after colonization by the Spanish and contact with missionaries did the Kuna start to transfer their traditional geometric designs on fabric, first by painting directly on the fabric and later by using the technique of reverse application. It is not known for certain when this technique was first used.
A Kuna woman displays a selection of molas for sale at her home in the San Blas Islands.
 Source: Wikipedia

PS: Below is my T-shirt, which has lived a good 30 years.  Pretty good for 100% cotton. And I've machine washed it all that time, when the tag says "dry clean." It also says it was made in Guatemala.  I do enjoy the embroidery (machine done probably). This technique incorporates a piece of cloth inserted under the embroidery to make it more three-dimensional. In some places the white cloth shows through the stitches.

Today's Quote:

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose - a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.  Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


  1. The patterns are very beautiful. And the colours! Would look odd in their vibrancy here in the greens and greys of north wales but they do sing!


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