by Patricia L. Cummings
One would not understand the intricacies involved in making molas, if one were a casual tourist to one of the archipelagos off the coast of Panama where this type of work continues to be made by the Kuna Indians. What is a mola? It is a layered garment, usually a blouse panel (made in pairs) that features appliqué and reverse appliqué. The front and the back of the blouse are similar but not exactly congruent and the blouse is often disassembled, each part sold separately to the unsuspecting public who may not realize that they are purchasing worn goods.
|A most interesting mola with Black faces and lots of quilting stitches rendered in an echo stitching style|
The molas are often very bright in color and often take their themes from sports or news magazines or advertisements left behind by the tourists. The motifs are eclectic and varied and only limited by the imagination of the mola maker. Making molas is a skill passed down from mother to daughter and it is a craft also engaged in by albino men. On my website, there is a lengthy article about molas with lots of photos: http://www.quiltersmuse.com/A-History-of-Molas.html
We have seen several excellent exhibits of molas over the last 20 years: one was mounted at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT; the other was at Dartmouth's Hood Museum.