Title: Mola

Date: ca. 1970 – 1990
Culture: Kuna (San Blas Islands, Caribbean)
Material: Cotton cloth
Size: 13.25” H x 15” W
Credit: James and Virginia Tobin Collection of Kuna Molas
On View: No

The Kuna are a contemporary group whose traditional homeland are the San Blas Islands of Panama. Many Kuna women decorate their blouses with reverse appliqué cotton cloth panels known as molas. 

The practice of creating molas began in the first half of the nineteenth century. However, it is believed to have its roots in traditional body painting. Kuna women regularly replace their old molas with new ones. The older ones are removed from their blouses and sold, which has created a lively market.

Kuna women use a dizzying variety of designs when creating molas. Some feature traditional tribal myths while others are more contemporary and may even include words. This one features three spirit figures with leaf-shaped heads and abstracted bodies that vaguely resemble fish tails.