Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ana discovers the mola, from Panama!

(All these photos can be clicked for greater detail.)

You might find it strange that a woman from another planet should be interested in exotic textiles and stitchery on Earth, but you really shouldn't. After all, her own people on Thomo have a long tradition of textile styles and patterns, which in some ways resemble those of Eastern Europe, with colorful patterns and layers of frills. Not surprisingly, Ana has been fascinated by textiles which spring from Hispanic cultures, one of which she has married into!

Once her life on Earth settled down a bit and she had a household and time to devote to it, Ana was delighted to pursue her curiosity about out planet's diverse offerings in many fields, including art and textiles. Most recently, we have posted information about the South American textile sculptures called arpilleras, made from Chile to Ecuador and Bolivia. This time, Ana has discovered the Panamanian mola, the riotously colorful and beautiful two-dimensional multi-layered textile creations of the Kuna people living on islands in the Gulf of Mexico on the eastern side of Panama. Some of these can be worn, and Ana wears several!

The photo above, from Wikipedia, shows a Kuna woman displaying a number of her gorgeous creations. Below are the first molas Ana ever saw, in the community room of a church she attended. Each has a Biblical theme: Jonah and the whale, and Noah's ark. Below each is a detail photo revealing the extremely fine stitching that produced them. In some cases, a colorful bit of material is appliqued over another. In others, the top layer is cut to reveal the colored layer underneath. More examples may clarify matters.

The technique of covering different colors with another one is seen in the next two molas. The first is of five animals. Note the ruler on the left, to show the scale. The second is a fish, also with a ruler for scale, and a detail for a closer look.

Ana's rudimentary sewing skills, sharpened by her husband's grandmother, enabled her to piece together several molas to turn into a shirt. Ana was encouraged to try this by the knowledge that Kuna women also recycle their work, often selling the older pieces to tourists. Here's such a project:

And here is a piece of fabric with three small mola designs, turned over to reveal the stitching on both undersides. Can anyone not understand Ana's fascination with this beautiful, ingenious technique?

Ana discovers arpilleras

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