Skip to Main Content
Tags for: Fashioning Identity: Mola Textiles of Panamá
  • Collection In Focus Article

Fashioning Identity: Mola Textiles of Panamá

Andrea Vazquez de Arthur
October 8, 2020
Crab Mola Panel, mid-1900s.  [23] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.341

Crab Mola Panel, mid-1900s. Sasardi Muladub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 44.5 x 48.3 cm. [23] Denison Museum, Denison University, Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.341

On small, sandy islands surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, Guna women spend hours every day hand sewing intricate designs into fabric panels destined to form the front and back of a blouse (fig. 1). These blouses, called molas, are so visually striking and uniquely Guna that they have become the single most recognizable element of Guna cultural identity.Fashioning Identity: Mola Textiles of Panamá explores the mola as both a cultural marker and the product of an artistic tradition, demonstrating the powerful role women artists play in the construction of social identity.

Image
Fig. 1 Large Bird Mola, c. 1950–70. [28] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.10
Fig. 1. Large Bird Mola, c. 1950–70. 
[28] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.10

In Dulegaya, the Guna language, “mola” applies to cloth as well as clothing and refers to both the individual panels and complete blouses.Although fabricated entirely from imported materials, the garments are indigenous in style and method of construction. The panels’ designs are made using the reverse appliqué technique: layers of different colored cotton fabric are basted (temporarily stitched) together; a design is cut into the top layer; and the edges of the cuts are carefully folded under and sewn down, revealing the color of the layer beneath. Additional details are added by appliqué, in which pieces of fabric are sewn on top; the entire design may be further embellished with touches of embroidery (fig. 2). The panels are made in pairs and attached to separate fabric pieces that form the blouse’s yoke (shoulder section) and sleeves. With her mola blouse tucked into a cotton wrap skirt, a Guna woman’s attire is completed by a red-and-yellow headscarf, strands of beads wrapped around her arms and legs, multistrand necklaces, and often a small gold nose ring (fig. 3).

Image
Fig. 2 Detail of appliqué and reverse appliqué techniques. The red and green outlines around the bird are executed in reverse appliqué, while the patches on the bird’s body are built up with appliqué. Two Birds Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. [18] The Cleveland M
Fig. 2. Detail of appliqué and reverse appliqué techniques. The red and green outlines around the bird are executed in reverse appliqué, while the patches on the bird’s body are built up with appliqué. Two Birds Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. [18] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.213
Image
Fig. 3 A Guna woman’s dress ensemble combines her handmade mola with a wrap skirt and headscarf. <br>Photo/Foto: Hemis / Alamy
Fig. 3. A Guna woman’s dress ensemble combines her handmade mola with a wrap skirt and headscarf.  Photo: Hemis / Alamy

Guna History and Culture

The Guna occupy a territory called the Gunayala Comarca (Gunaland Province). Located on the far northeastern coast of the Republic of Panamá, it consists of hundreds of tiny islands as well as the adjacent coastline (fig. 4).3 While the Guna use the mainland territory for agriculture, their villages are nearly all located on the islands, where they live in densely populated communities (fig. 5). Visual and performing arts in Guna society are strictly gendered.4 Men’s arts include basket weaving and public oratory, such as poems, stories, chants, and speeches. Molas are designed and fabricated almost exclusively by women, including men who identify as women.5 They learn their art during adolescence and continue to create molas throughout their lifetimes. Guna women began making molas around the turn of the twentieth century, when they were already well engaged in foreign trade networks that provided access to cloth, thread, needles, razor blades, and later, scissors.6 From these imported goods, they began inventing a new style of traditional dress that quickly became a symbol of their identity—and even their freedom.

Image
Fig. 4 The Gunayala Comarca, showing the communities referenced in the exhibition
Fig. 4. The Gunayala Comarca, showing the communities referenced in the exhibition
Image
Fig. 5 Aerial view of the Urgandi (Río Sidra) community. Photo/Foto: Hemis / Alamy
Fig. 5. Aerial view of the Urgandi (Río Sidra) community. Photo: Hemis / Alamy

The Republic of Panamá became an independent nation in 1903. In 1918, Panamanian president Belisario Porras began taking direct action to subjugate the Guna people, eradicate their culture, and assimilate them into the general population. Police were stationed in villages throughout Guna territory to forcibly suppress such cultural practices as traditional medicine, girls’ puberty ceremonies, community gatherings, and the relatively new style of women’s dress already viewed as an affront to Western customs.7 Guna people met this attack on their ethnicity with fierce resistance, and making and wearing molas became an act of political protest (fig. 6). In 1925, after enduring over six years of oppression, the Guna carried out a carefully organized revolution that forced the police to flee the region. With the support of the United States, the Guna made an agreement with the Panamanian republic that granted them freedom to maintain their ethnicity and govern their own affairs.8 Ultimately, the Guna gained complete autonomy over their territory.

Image
Fig. 6 This mola dates roughly to the era of the Guna Revolution. Letters Mola Panel, 1920s.
Fig. 6. This mola dates roughly to the era of the Guna Revolution. Letters Mola Panel, 1920s. 
[7] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1930.14

In the years following the Guna Revolution, community leaders encouraged and enforced adherence to cultural traditions, including women’s traditional dress.According to mola scholar Diana Marks, “Kuna [sic] women, wearing their mola blouses, highlighted the distinctiveness of the Kuna people and strengthened the Kuna identity.”10 Women were urged to spend as much time as possible sewing molas and given opportunity to do so throughout the day. Over the last century, the mola has transcended its role as a garment to serve as a visual embodiment of the strength and survival of Guna identity and ethnicity.

Mola Design and Aesthetics

Gunayala villages are tightly packed with multigenerational households. Women spend much of their time sewing molas together in groups, lending a communal sense to the process (fig. 7).11 As they sew, they discuss the mola panels they and others are making, their commentary ranging from technical aspects to subject matter, color choice, style, and composition. This spirited practice of critique has resulted in a distinctively Guna system of aesthetic criteria for evaluating the beauty of a mola.12 Mari Lyn Salvador spent years studying artistic criticism from the perspective of Guna women and describes their aesthetic system as “based on the skillful manipulation of the technical process and the amount of work involved, together with the design considerations which include filled space, repetition with subtle variation, subtle asymmetry, visibility, complexity, and interesting subject matter.”13 In essence, a mola panel’s beauty is contingent upon both its visual appeal and its craftsmanship; in fact, many of the techniques are difficult and must be masterfully executed to achieve the desired effect (fig. 8).  

Image
Fig. 7 Collaborative discussion is an important part of the mola-making process. Photo/Foto: Alfredo Maiquez / Alamy
Fig. 7. Collaborative discussion is an important part of the mola-making process. 
Photo: Alfredo Maiquez / Alamy
Image
Fig. 8 Basket Mola Panel (Garba Sor Mor), mid-1900s. <br>[2] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.1012
Fig. 8. Basket Mola Panel (Garba Sor Mor), mid-1900s.  
[2] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.1012

In a well-designed mola panel, spaces surrounding the primary motifs are filled with embellishments, creating a dense thicket of color and line. These filler elements, whether subtractive or additive, are an important part of the composition, and each type has its own name. Among the more popular are parallel slits or das-das; lines with triangular sawtooth edges, known as ada-ada; and wawa-naled, tiny triangles (sometimes called nips) cut out of the fabric, with appliquéd pieces (pips) sewn on top (fig. 9a–c).14

Image
das-das Scorpion Mola, mid-1900s <br>[17] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.1033
das-das
Scorpion Mola, mid-1900s 
[17] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.1033
Image
ada-ada Basket Mola Panel (Garba Mor), c. 1950–70 <br>[1] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.211
ada-ada
Basket Mola Panel (Garba Mor), c. 1950–70 
[1] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.211
Image
wawa-naled Enclosed Bird Mola Panel, mid-1900s. <br>[3] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.206
wawa-naled
Enclosed Bird Mola Panel, mid-1900s. 
[3] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.206

An accomplished mola artist demonstrates her skill by including fillers that are especially challenging and laborious to execute. One of the most prestigious techniques is bisu-bisu, a geometric maze of evenly spaced lines that create winding paths across the surface and visually dissolve the divide between figure and background (fig. 10). Between the main motifs and the fillers, mola panels are complex, three-dimensional constructions created by cutting down through layers of fabric while also building up layers to add emphasis and pops of contrasting color (fig. 11).

Image
Fig. 10 Mola panel showing the bisu-bisu technique. Labyrinth Mola Panel, 1920s or 1930s. [6] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1958.218
Fig. 10. Mola panel showing the bisu-bisu technique. Labyrinth Mola Panel, 1920s or 1930s.  [6] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1958.218
Image
Fig. 11 Hook Mola Panel (Ake Mor), mid-1900s. Ankela Rivera (Guna, Agligandi community, active mid-1900s). [26] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.357
Fig. 11. Hook Mola Panel (Ake Mor), mid-1900s. Ankela Rivera (Guna, Agligandi community, active mid-1900s).  [26] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.357

The concept of the double has deep significance in Guna cosmology and the expression of duality is one of the core principles of Guna art.15 According to the Guna worldview, the earthly realm and everything in it has a spiritual double that exists in parallel to the material world.16 The doubling of forms and motifs on mola panels evokes this worldview, as does the concern for balance and equilibrium in design composition (fig. 12). The same is true of men’s oratory: their speeches, chants, and poems employ parallelism, a literary device that creates rhythm through the repetition of words and phrases, much like the names for mola filler techniques mentioned above.17

Image
Fig. 12 Rampant Lions Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. <br>[13] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.197
Fig. 12. Rampant Lions Mola Panel, c. 1950–70.  [13] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.197

Often the repeated phrases are not exactly the same but differ slightly to convey a sense of subtle asymmetry. Many mola panels likewise exhibit parallelism, whether in the repetition of forms within a single panel or of the designs of the panels on the blouse’s front and back. For instance, in one mola the figure of Santa Claus repeats twice on a panel that is itself duplicated, with the front and back panels forming a matching pair (fig. 13). Here, as in other molas with paired figures, the images are similar but not identical: although the two Santas look the same, they carry different toys in their sacks. Alternately, in some molas the panels are not visually similar but rather form a conceptual pair, such as a mola that depicts two related events from the biblical Garden of Eden (fig. 14a, b).

Image
Fig. 13 Santa Claus Mola, c. 1986. <br>[16] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 2010.800
Fig. 13. Santa Claus Mola, c. 1986.  [16] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 2010.800
Image
Fig. 14a, b Adam and Eve Mola, front and back panels, before 1968. <br>[19] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.358
Image
Fig. 14a, b Adam and Eve Mola, front and back panels, before 1968. <br>[19] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.358
Fig. 14a, b. Adam and Eve Mola, front and back panels, before 1968. [19] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.35

The range of subjects depicted on Guna mola panels is seemingly infinite, with some responding to contemporary culture while others reinterpret designs from the past. A select group of mola designs with individual names, collectively designated sergan (“ancestor” or “elder”), are particularly revered because they represent the longevity of the mola tradition (fig. 15).18 These older designs may appear to be purely geometric, but they are often abstracted images of the plants, animals, and objects that have served as source material since the invention of the mola.19 In a similar vein, artists continue to draw from their immediate environment, which now includes everything from product packaging and magazine advertisements to cartoon characters and film posters. One mola panel in the exhibition reinterprets the poster from the 1978 film Matilda [10] (fig. 16), while Bullwinkle J. Moose, the famous 1960s animation character, appears on another (fig. 17).

Image
Fig. 15 Sergan design. Knee Mola Panel (Yokor Mor), mid-1900s. [27] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.299
Fig. 15. Sergan design. Knee Mola Panel (Yokor Mor), mid-1900s. [27] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.299
Image
Fig.16 Matilda Mola, after 1978. [10] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 2010.799
Fig. 16. Matilda Mola, after 1978. [10] The Cleveland Museum of Art, 2010.799
Image
Fig.17 Bullwinkle J. Moose Mola Panel, c.&nbsp;1960s. <br>[22] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.328
Fig. 17. Bullwinkle J. Moose Mola Panel, c. 1960s.  [22] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.328

The Guna fought hard for their right to remain isolated, and access to the Gunayala Comarca is carefully controlled. Nevertheless, Guna people choose to interact regularly with the world beyond their borders. They operate their own tourist industry, allow cruise ships to dock in their ports, and, given their proximity to the Panamá Canal, Guna men have been working in the Canal Zone since the time of its construction. When Guna women appropriate elements of Western culture for their molas, they demonstrate a comprehensive worldview and a willingness to engage outside influence.20 Their molas are no less traditional when they feature foreign elements. Rather, mola artists transform these elements into something indigenous, assimilating them into their own cultural identity.21 When worn on the body as traditional dress, these transcultural molas communicate the Gunas’ tenacity about maintaining ethnic identity and traditional lifeways even as they participate in the global economy.

Mola artists assert that the image on a mola panel is less important than how that image is made manifest.22 In other words, less significance is attached to subject matter than to the mola itself as a carrier of cultural meaning (fig. 18). This is likely what invites such an eclectic array of imagery and why adhering to their aesthetic system is important for maintaining a sense of continuity through changing trends. Molas symbolize Guna identity not by what they picture, but through their very mode of visual expression.

Image
Fig. 18 It is the medium of the mola, more so than its subject matter, that communicates Guna cultural identity. Photo/Foto: wanderluster / Alamy
Fig. 18. It is the medium of the mola, more so than its subject matter, that communicates Guna cultural identity. Photo: wanderluster / Alamy

Collecting and Preserving Molas

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the outsiders who collected molas during visits to Gunayala included Americans living in the Canal Zone and anthropologists conducting fieldwork.23 For the most part, these early collecting efforts involved molas that were worn and used, whether complete examples or panels cut from old blouses. Sales kept pace as tourism to Gunayala increased in the 1940s, and in the 1960s women began to make molas expressly for sale to outsiders.24 An observation perfectly appropriate to the Guna in this regard comes from artist Rose Simpson of Santa Clara Pueblo in the American Southwest: “The idea of being an artist as separate from life is a very Western concept. . . . But with Western ways of living, we’ve had to figure out how to market our aesthetic ways of being. . . . For me it’s been a really interesting thing to watch how a lot of indigenous people have navigated that sort of new way of finding a livelihood.”25 Through lucrative sales, women contribute substantially to household incomes, which has transformed their social position—they now play more active roles in community government.26

An additional benefit of selling molas to visitors is that many are eventually donated to museums, expanding their life cycles from garments to commodities to collectibles. The museum’s role as conservator of material culture is of increasing value to the Guna themselves since Gunayala’s high temperatures, humidity, and sunlight make preservation of cloth very difficult. Indeed, museums have begun to serve as archives that the Guna consult. For instance, in the 1990s, Guna representatives visited the Smithsonian collections in Washington, DC, and New York City to study and document molas collected in the early twentieth century.27 These visits allowed mola makers to directly experience molas made by earlier generations—many bearing sergan designs—and to bring back those designs to share with their communities for future generations to carry forward. The Smithsonian benefited in turn by gaining insight into the origins and interpretations of sergan designs, reinforcing the value of reciprocal relationships between museums and artists.

More than half of the molas at the Cleveland Museum of Art were donated in 1971 by Dr. Louis Hoover, an art professor at Illinois State University, and his wife, Lucille Hoover. Between 1966 and 1971 they made several trips to Gunayala, studying Guna culture and amassing an extensive collection of molas and artifacts. The couple was deeply concerned with preserving fine works of cloth and wood that would otherwise deteriorate in the tropical climate: “We sought to obtain as many of the older, traditional pieces as possible, and we generally had the full cooperation of the island tribal chiefs.”28 In 2010, the CMA received a smaller donation of molas from Dr. Jeanne Marie Stumpf, an anthropologist at Kent State University who briefly visited Gunayala in 1986. The Stumpf molas thus capture the work of a different generation than those collected by the Hoovers.

Denison University’s museum made generous loans to this exhibition from its Guna collection, one of the largest and most important in the United States. Denison’s mola holdings are noteworthy in part for the number of complete blouses represented as well as their documentation, gathered at the time of collection. The majority were donated in 1972 by Dr. Clyde Keeler, a geneticist who conducted scientific research in Gunayala and over the course of twenty-two research trips became familiar enough with the Guna to publish several books on their arts and religion (fig. 19).29 Keeler’s collecting activity, like that of the Hoovers, was rooted in his dedication to preserving Guna culture.

Image
Fig. 19 Soul Bird Mola, before 1967. [37] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.370
Fig. 19. Soul Bird Mola, before 1967. [37] Denison Museum, Denison University, 1972.370

 


 

Checklist of the Exhibition

All molas in the exhibition were made by Guna women of the Gunayala Comarca, Republic of Panamá. Known community affiliations are noted below, along with the single recorded artist’s name [26]. Community spellings are taken from the website of the Congreso General de Gunayala. Height precedes width.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

  • [1] Basket Mola Panel (Garba Mor), c. 1950–70. Urgandi (Río Sidra) community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 32.5 x 39 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.211
  • [2] Basket Mola Panel (Garba Sor Mor), mid-1900s. Cotton; reverse appliqué; 34.9 x 46.3 cm. The Harold T. Clark Educational Extension Fund, 1971.1012
  • [3] Enclosed Bird Mola Panel, mid-1900s. Gardi Sugdub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 44 x 57 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.206
  • [4] Iguana Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. Wissubwala community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 44 x 55 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.217
  • [5] Incense Braziers Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. Mammidub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 38.5 x 55 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.215
  • [6] Labyrinth Mola Panel, 1920s or 1930s. Cotton; reverse appliqué; 50.8 x 68.6 cm. Gift of Dorothy Bulkley, 1958.218
  • [7] Letters Mola Panel, 1920s. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 50.8 x 63.5 cm. Gift of Julia Raymond, 1930.14
  • [8] Liberal Party Political Mola Panels (pair), mid-1980s. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 67.3 x 44.5 cm. Gift of Jeanne Marie Stumpf, Ph.D., 2010.801
  • [9] Liberal Party Political Mola Panels (pair), mid-1980s. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 72.4 x 47.4 cm. Gift of Jeanne Marie Stumpf, Ph.D., 2010.802
  • [10] Matilda Mola, after 1978. Cotton, synthetic fiber; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 62.2 x 89.5 cm. Gift of Jeanne Marie Stumpf, Ph.D., 2010.799
  • [11] Medicine Men Curing the Sick Mola Panel, c. 1960–65. Urgandi (Río Sidra) community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 37 x 46.5 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.212
  • [12] Monster with Double-Headed Serpent Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. Usdub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 46.5 x 59 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.198
  • [13] Rampant Lions Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. Gardi Coiba community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 37.5 x 46 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.197
  • [14] Rooster Mola Panel, mid-1900s. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 43.8 x 45.7 cm. Bequest of Helen Weiss, 1988.1066
  • [15] Rooster and Hen Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. Gardi Muladub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 36.5 x 47 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.207
  • [16] Santa Claus Mola, c. 1986. Cotton, synthetic fiber; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 62.2 x 92.7 cm. Gift of Jeanne Marie Stumpf, Ph.D., 2010.800
  • [17] Scorpion Mola, mid-1900s. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 57.2 x 68.5 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Altmann, 1971.1033
  • [18] Two Birds Mola Panel, c. 1950–70. Wissubwala community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 39.5 x 47.5 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. F. Louis Hoover, 1971.213

Denison Museum, Denison University

  • [19] Adam and Eve Mola, before 1968. Gardi islands. Cotton, synthetic fiber; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 55.9 x 66 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.358
  • [20] Bird Mola, before 1966. Sasardi Muladub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 58.5 x 71 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.314
  • [21] Bird Mola, mid-1900s. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 48.3 x 52 cm. Denison Museum, Denison University, XX.115
  • [22] Bullwinkle J. Moose Mola Panel, c. 1960s. Gardi islands. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 38 x 47 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.328
  • [23] Crab Mola Panel, mid-1900s. Sasardi Muladub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 44.5 x 48.3 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.341
  • [24] Flower Mola, 1967. Sasardi Muladub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 53.5 x 66 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.283
  • [25] Guava? Mola, mid-1900s. Agligandi community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 57 x 62 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.315
  • [26] Hook Mola Panel (Ake Mor), mid-1900s. Ankela Rivera (Guna, Agligandi community, active mid-1900s). Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 35.5 x 53.5 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.357
  • [27] Knee Mola Panel (Yokor Mor), mid-1900s. Sasardi Muladub community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 37 x 49 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.299
  • [28] Large Bird Mola, c. 1950–70. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 43 x 49.5 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kelley, 1972.10
  • [29] Little Sea Turtles Dancing Mola (Yaui Purwi Kuirnai Mor), before 1968. Gardi islands. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 63.5 x 68.5 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.336
  • [30] Lunar Eclipse Mola, mid-1900s. Gardi islands. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 47 x 57 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.372
  • [31] Mountain? Mola, before 1950. Agligandi community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 48 x 58.5 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.375
  • [32] Opossums Mola, mid-1900s. Gardi islands. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 23 x 33 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.377
  • [33] Palm Tree Mola, mid-1900s. Agligandi community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 58.5 x 66 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.286
  • [34] Roosters Mola Panel, 1920s or 1930s. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 51 x 75.7 cm. Denison Museum, Denison University, XX.134
  • [35] Shadow of the Mountain? Mola (Yar Purba[?] Mor), 1952. Agligandi community. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué; 63.5 x 68.5 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.284
  • [36] Skates and Rays Mola, before 1969. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 54.5 x 63.5 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.280
  • [37] Soul Bird Mola, before 1967. Gardi islands. Cotton; reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery; 45.7 x 56 cm. Gift of Dr. Clyde Keeler, 1972.370 

     

  • 1. Lawrence A. Hirschfeld, “Cuna Aesthetics: A Quantitative Analysis,” Ethnology 16, no. 2 (1977): 149. Mari Lyn Salvador, “Looking Back: Contemporary Kuna Women’s Arts,” in The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama, ed. Mari Lyn Salvador, 151–211 (Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1997), 157. Diana Marks, Molas: Dress, Identity, Culture (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016), 84–89.
  • 2. Marks, Molas: Dress, Identity, Culture, 76–77.
  • 3. Guna was formerly spelled Kuna or Cuna. The change in spelling marks a reform instigated by the Guna General Congress in 2010. In 2011, the Panamanian government officially recognized the area formerly known as San Blas as the Gunayala Comarca.
  • 4. Mari Lyn Salvador and James Howe, “Artful Lives: The Kuna of Panama,” in The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama, ed. Mari Lyn Salvador, 29–51 (Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1997), 31.
  • 5. Karin E. Tice, Kuna Crafts, Gender, and the Global Economy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), 59.
  • 6. Marks, Molas: Dress, Identity, Culture, 57–59, 70–71.
  • 7. James Howe, “The Kuna Portray Their Own Revolutionary History,” in The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama, ed. Mari Lyn Salvador, 146–49 (Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1997), 146.
  • 8. Howe, “The Kuna and the World: Five Centuries of Struggle,” in ibid., 94–97.
  • 9. Regina E. Holloman, “Developmental Change in San Blas” (PhD diss., Northwestern University, 1969), 435.
  • 10. Marks, “The Kuna Mola: Dress, Politics and Cultural Survival,” Dress 40, no. 1 (2014): 23. See note 3 for the shifting spelling of “Guna.”
  • 11. Salvador, “Kuna Women’s Arts: Molas, Meaning, and Markets,” in Crafting Gender: Women and Folk Art in Latin America and the Caribbean, ed. Eli Bartra, 47–72 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 58.
  • 12. Salvador, “Looking Back: Contemporary Kuna Women’s Arts,” 176–80.
  • 13. Ibid., 177.
  • 14. Ibid., 181. Marks, Molas: Dress, Identity, Culture, 79.
  • 15. Marks, “Parallelism and Meaning: Understanding Molas as Twinned Pairs,” Journal of Material Culture 21, no. 3 (2016): 320–21.
  • 16. Mac Chapin, “The World of Spirit, Disease, and Curing,” in The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama, ed. Mari Lyn Salvador, 219–42 (Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1997), 219–20.
  • 17. Joel Sherzer, “Kuna Language and Literature,” in ibid., 107–8.
  • 18. Michel Perrin, Magnificent Molas: The Art of the Kuna Indians, trans. Deke Dusinberre (Paris: Flammarion, 1999), 97–105.
  • 19. Salvador, “Looking Back: Contemporary Kuna Women’s Arts,” 184–87.
  • 20. Janet Catherine Berlo, “Beyond Bricolage: Women and Aesthetic Strategies in Latin American Textiles,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 22 (1992): 125.
  • 21. Ibid., 131.
  • 22. Dina Sherzer and Joel Sherzer, “Mormaknamaloe: The Cuna Mola,” in Ritual and Symbol in Native Central America, eds. Philip D. Young and James Howe, 21–42 (Eugene: University of Oregon, 1976), 32–33. Perrin, Magnificent Molas, 40.
  • 23. Marks, “From Part to Whole: Developing an Appreciation of Kuna Molas as Collectibles,” Textile 13, no. 2 (2015): 158.
  • 24. Tice, Kuna Crafts, Gender, and the Global Economy, 63–64.
  • 25. Rose B. Simpson, “Where I Come From,” RISD XYZ (spring/summer, 2020): 19.
  • 26. Marks, “From Part to Whole,” 158. Salvador, “Looking Back: Contemporary Kuna Women’s Arts,” 202–4.
  • 27. One group visited the Smithsonian collection in Washington, DC, in 1994 and a different group visited the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City in 1996. Salvador, “Looking Back: Contemporary Kuna Women’s Arts,” 177.
  • 28. Letter from F. Louis Hoover to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, April 29, 1976, quoted in Marks, Molas: Dress, Identity, Culture, 38.
  • 29. Georgia College, Ina Dillard Russel Library, Clyde E. Keeler Collection, Biographical Note, https://libguides.gcsu.edu/c.php?g=396815&p=2696729.