The Kuna and their Molas

This blog has always been primarily about my rug hooking adventures and  while I have not avoided mention of my family, they are not usually the subject of my writing here. Now I find that the current adventure of my youngest son Mathieu and his girl friend Melanie, has a rug hooking connection which I hope others may find interesting. 220px-Cabañas_Guna_Yala I recently had breakfast with them during a layover in Toronto on their way from Calgary to Panama city where they would then make their way to a remote corner of the country.DSCN0711 They are currently spending a month long artist residency living among the Kuna people (originators of the mola designs) in the village of Armila , Panama, near the border of Columbia. (marked B on this map)7ba0604a1cfecd13b04e41f033e085e4“This town of about 600 people is the epitome of remote. There are no roads to Armila. The only way in is via foot or boat. They speak the native language of Dulegaya. Our living space was a grass roof, grass walled house like all the rest of the traditionally built homes. The experience was authentic. Across the street, or rather the sandy path wide enough for a burro and a some side loaded cargo baskets, was our host Luperio and his family. Next door was their corner store, which sold what became one of my favorite indulgences, Brinky cookies… Central American OREOs.”…..from an article by EriksonimagesThey have no wifi connectivity, or even electricity, and will be living in a thatched hut on the ocean, immersed in the Kuna culture.

“The Kuna Indians are a strongly-knit tribal society living on a chain of islands called San Blas Archipelago, on the Atlantic side of the Republic of Panama. Believed to be descendants of the Caribs, the Kuna Indians still live in much the same manner as their ancestors. The San Blas people have cleverly managed to retain their tribal identity and contentedly lead a moral balanced life, free from the complexities of modern, highly-organized societies.
The Kuna have a matriarchal society in which the line of inheritance passes through the women. A young man, after marriage, must live in his mother-in-law’s house and work for several years under apprenticeship to his father-in-law. Divorce is uncommon, although it requires no more than the husband to gather his clothes and move out of the house. The daughters of the Kuna people are prized because they will eventually bring additional manpower into the family.”  …..from an article by Sherry Thorup.

 

“The Kuna are famous for their bright molas, a colorful textile art form made with the techniques of appliqué and reverse appliqué. Mola panels are used to make the blouses of the Kuna women’s national dress, which is worn daily by many Kuna women. Mola means “clothing” in the Kuna language. The Kuna word for a mola blouse is Tulemola, (or “dulemola”) “Kuna people’s clothing.” ……from wikipedia

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The beautiful  mola designs of the Kuna people have been embraced by rug hookers for some time. I have long recognized the style in rug hooking, but knew really nothing about its origin, other than that it came from the Caribbean. When I first began rug hooking, the Sunshine Group had recently had a “mola” workshop and the style popped up on countless pieces. The vivid colours and animal designs make it immediately recognizable.

I just discovered that there are no less than 70 boards on pinterest that are devoted to molas .images-3images-2

While tourists call them  molas and readily buy them as souvenirs, the decorative style  is

still worn on the clothing of the Kuna women.images-1170px-Panama-Kuna_0610a

 

a-welcome-dance-by-the-local-kuna-tribe-armila-panama-july-2014-edhpxgWhere Mathieu and Melanie are staying there is a 4 km long beach which is one of the world’s largest nesting ground for leatherback turtles. The Kuna people work diligently to preserve this special area and protect the turtles as they come ashore to lay their eggs, and the young when they hatch.p543928560-4

“One girl, who manages the town’s only telephone, was asked why they didn’t touch the turtles. She told me a story about a young girl who went out on the beach and put her hands on the side of a leatherback. Her hands got stuck, “like a magnet,” and the turtle dragged her into the sea. Contact with leatherbacks is also said to cause complications during childbirth, but above all, the Kuna believe that they are distantly related to turtles, and so treat them with the same respect as they would relatives.”……from an article on leatherbacks in Armila

I’m really looking forward to hearing about Mathieu and Melanie’s adventures and seeing their photos when they return to Canada in August . I may even be inspired to hook a “mola” of my own.

Thanks for stopping by.

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