What is a Mola?
Mola is a textile fabric art characteristic for the Kunas, Cunas or Gunadule, an indigenous community living in Panama and Colombia in the Caribbean coast. Molas are usually done in reverse appliqué technique, using two or more layers of cloth and cutting through to reveal the color underneath. The designs and patterns are totally individual for every artisan woman and shall incorporate both traditional and modern elements. Early Mola designs were related to pre-Hispanic body painting; today Mola designs may include abstract geometric shapes, impressions of their daily life and rituals, motifs from nature, popular culture, as well as Kuna legends.
The word Mola in Kuna language means blouse or cloth and they are wored by all Kuna women along their lives. Each Mola art panel which is attached on a woman´s blouse represent an important phase of her life. When this phase is finished, they remove the actual panel and attach a new Mola art meaning the beginning of a new phase. By wearing their own Mola blouse women feel safe because it has a protective meaning as well.
Appreciating this textile Art based on aNcestral traditions will arouse the feeling of being an owner of an unique ART piece, handmade exclusively for you!
Samples of Molas
Sewing Molas - an ancestral tradition
This beautiful textile Art technique is totally handsewn and depending on the forms and motifs of each Mola, the total making process can take from weeks up to several months until it is completely finished. The more layers a Mola has, the more complex it is. Molas are sewn by women although men can influence in the design and interpretation of the Mola, specially when this cointains a family event, character or ritual. Women can spend many hours every day sewing Molas for their own (to add on their blouses), or to sell. Sewing Molas is a tradition that goes from generation to generation and it has been rooted to the lifes of the Kunas since the beginning of their time. It is normal to see seventh year old girls sewing their Molas next to their mothers, grand and great-grandmothers.
The making of Molas is as important as the Kuna people itself. Molas are the representation of an entire indigenous community. Through their Art, a culture is identified preserving our roots and origins.
Photo by: Artesanias de Colombia. More about Kunas and Molas on this link: http://www.artesaniasdecolombia.com.co:8080/PortalAC/Noticia/colombia-artesanal-molas-formas-de-tradicion-y-proteccion_9105
The Kuna or Guna culture is an Indian folk situated in its mayority on the northeast of Panama in a vast region of 360 islands and reefs with aprox. 61,700 inhabitants (year 2000). There are three mayor districts: Kuna Yala, Madugandí and Wargandí located on the provinces Panama, Colón and Darién. The Kunas also live in Colombia also known as Gunadule or Tule, in two communities with aprox. 1,166 inhabitants in the zone of Arquía (Chocó), Caimán Nuevo, Necoclí (Antioquia) and Golfo de Urabá.
Their economy is based on agriculture, fishing and hunting with a tradition of international trade, Coconuts, cocoa and lobsters are the most important export products. Mola Art is one of its most important economic resources, placing women in a very important position within the community, since they are the ones who create them since they are young. Tourism also has developed over the last decade in one of his most important sources of income.
They live in houses of simple architecture constructed with canes but with a solid and resistant structure enough to endure the caribean weather. Although the villages are mostly located in islands, their places of work are in the nearby mainland, where they transport themselves daily by canoe paddles to work on their crops.
Short history about the Kunas
During the Spanish conquest in the year 1500 in the Caribbean Coast and the Gulf of Uraba in Antioquia, the expedition came into contact with Kuna Indians for the first time. Their constant migration from the Gulf of Uraba in Colombia to the coast of San Blas in Panama (Panama was part of Colombia until 1900), were due to constant wars with other indian group (Embera Katío) but mainly due to the bad treatment by the Spanish conquerors. Due to this situation Indians Kuna would ally with the British against the Spanish. They would concentrate on the rivers of the area to attack the Spanish but the Spanish Crown would respond to this threat with an order to annihilate the Indians Kuna. Due to this they were able to move to the headwaters of the rivers Tuira and Chucunaque. The Atrato River in Colombia would have been suitable for this channel dispersion to the east of Panama. Finally Indians Kuna would settle down more in Panama than in Colombia.
Meet Adriana and how the idea was born...
Few years ago I moved from my home country Colombia, to Poland to start a new life together with my polish husband. Quite quickly I became aware, that not many Europeans knew Latin America – and those, who do have an idea, associate Colombia with an unfair, negative image, so often shown in the world media.
Once in Poland, I did some teaching work, and during Spanish classes, I was showing to my students the beautiful side of Colombia, our culture and art. On many occasions I was asked to show examples of Colombian folklore and some samples of colombian craftsmanship.
Later on, when I presented them, everyone seemed simply enchanted with materials used, their quality and precision – but most of all, by their originality and artistic value. Maybe the most impressive was the fact, that most of the products were totally handmade by artisans and containing art expressions from Indigenous tribes still living in Colombia and creating unique cultural items – each of them was one of the kind!
This experience founded a basis for creation of Mola Bags – a company created with the purpose of presenting on European markets the unique,craftsmanship from native inhabitants of my beautiful country and containing its art, culture and soul.Left picture: my very 1st. market on June 2015 at the Soloh market in Berlin.
Completing my industrial design studies in Colombia and Germany, I acquired knowledge about quality and its most important features of products we are using in our daily life. I like to think that I have an ability of discovering and appreciating these objects, which somehow involve cultural uniqueness of its place of origin. They are carriers of history and tradition of the regions and countries where they were manufactured. Mola Bags shall allow sharing with its European customers the art and the beauty of Colombian Indigenous ethnic tradition. Items manufactured by Kuna Indians survived pretty much unchanged the pass of time and still allow authentic contact with their world. In this way these products survive as well the fast-growing season's fashion cosumption offering an item that will last for many years.
Now, after almost five years living in Poland I live in Berlin with my husband and our 2 wonderful kids. Mola Bags was born in early 2014 committed to promote and create consciousness about the culture of Latin America in Europe, by means of beautiful, unique products designed for daily use, handmade and containing little part of our culture, tradition and history.
Today Indians Kuna keep alive their traditions and customs and represent a culture with a great historical and artistic value. For their great creativity and ability to translate their mythology, environment and culture in a unique art, Kuna Mola Art is increasingly considered more valuable in the international market.
Some images thanks to: www.molaartandcraft.com