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The Mola, or Molas, is a hand-made textile that forms part of the traditional women's clothing of the Kuna people from Panamá and parts of Colombia. The full costume includes a patterned wrapped skirt (saburet), a red and yellow headscarf (musue), arm and leg beads (wini), a gold nose ring (olasu) and earrings in addition to the mola blouse (dulemor).
In Dulegaya, the Guna's native language, "mola" means "shirt" or "clothing". The mola originated with the tradition of kuna women painting their bodies with geometric designs, using available natural colors; in later years these same designs were woven in cotton, and later still, sewn using cloth bought from the European settlers of Panamá.
Molas have their origin in body painting. Only after colonization by the Spanish and contact with missionaries did the Guna start to transfer their traditional geometric designs on fabric, first by painting directly on the fabric and later by using the technique of reverse appliqué. It is not known for certain when this technique was first used. It seems to have originated in the second half of the nineteenth century.
As an inspiration for their designs, the Guna first used the geometrical patterns which have been used for body painting before. In the past 50 years, they have also depicted realistic and abstract designs of flowers, sea animals and birds, and popular culture.
Depending on the tradition of each island, Guna women begin the crafting of molas either after they reach puberty, or at a much younger age. Women who prefer to dress in western style are in the minority as well as in the communities in Panama City.
Molas have such an importance for the Guna people and their traditional identity that they can be considered responsible for the independent status of the Comarca Guna Yala. After the attempt of the Panamanian government to "westernize" the Guna in the beginning of the 20th century by prohibiting their customs, their language and their traditional dress, a huge wave of resistance arose. This resistance movement culminated in the Guna revolution of 1925 where, after heavy battles, the Panamanian government gave the Guna people the right to govern their own territory autonomously.
Molas are hand-made using a reverse appliqué technique. Several layers (usually two to seven) of different-colored cloth (usually cotton) are sewn together; the design is then formed by cutting away parts of each layer. The edges of the layers are then turned under and sewn down. Often, the stitches are nearly invisible. This is achieved by using a thread the same color as the layer being sewn, sewing blind stitches, and sewing tiny stitches. The finest molas have extremely fine stitching, made using tiny needles.
The largest pattern is typically cut from the top layer, and progressively smaller patterns from each subsequent layer, thus revealing the colors beneath in successive layers. This basic scheme can be varied by cutting through multiple layers at once, hence varying the sequence of colours; some molas also incorporate patches of contrasting colours, included in the design at certain points to introduce additional variations of color.
Molas vary greatly in quality, and the pricing to buyers varies accordingly. A greater number of layers is generally a sign of higher quality; two-layer molas are common, but examples with four or more layers will demand a better price. The quality of stitching is also a factor, with the stitching on the best molas being close to invisible. Although some molas rely on embroidery to some degree to enhance the design, those which are made using only the pure reverse-appliqué technique (or nearly so) are considered better.
Molas will often be found for sale with signs of use, such as stitch marks around the edges; such imperfections indicate that the mola was made for use, and not simply for sale to tourists.A mola can take from two weeks to six months to make, depending on the complexity of the design.
The traditional costume of a Guna woman consists of a patterned blue cotton wrapped skirt, red and yellow headscarf, arm and leg beads, gold nose rings and earrings and the many layered and finely sewn mola panel blouse.
The artistry of a mola reflects a synthesis of traditional Guna culture with the influences of the modern world. Mola art developed when Guna women had access to store bought yard goods. Mola designs are often inspired by modern graphics such as political posters, labels, pictures from books and TV cartoons, as well as traditional themes from Guna legends and culture.
Geometric molas are the most traditional, having developed from ancient body painting designs. Many hours of careful sewing are required to create a fine mola. The ability to make an outstanding mola is a source of status among Guna women.
The quality of a mola is determined by such factors as
When Guna women tire of a particular blouse, they disassemble it and sell the molas to collectors.
Since mola panels have been worn as part of the traditional dress of a Guna woman they often show signs of wear such as fading and stitch marks along the edges of the panels. These "imperfections" indicate that the mola is authentic and not made solely to be sold to tourists.
Molas are often sold in pairs, the pair consisting of the back and front panels of a blouse. The two molas are usually two variations on a theme. Matched molas complement each other and should be displayed or used together for the greatest impact.
Mola panels have many uses. They can be framed as art or made into pillows, place mats or wall hangings. Some people even make them into bedspreads or incorporate them into quilting projects.
Molas are very sturdy and well sewn. Authentic molas have already been washed many times and can be safely hand washed in warm water.
Molas may be purchased in Panama or in Colombia.
The mola blouse is an important symbol of Guna culture.
Quilting is the process of sewing two or more layers of fabric together to make a thicker padded material, usually to create a quilt or quilted garment. Typically, quilting is done with three layers: the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and backing material, but many different styles are adopted.
Patchwork or "pieced work" is a form of needlework that involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design. The larger design is usually based on repeating patterns built up with different fabric shapes. These shapes are carefully measured and cut, basic geometric shapes making them easy to piece together.
A quilt is a multi-layered textile, traditionally composed of three layers of fiber: a woven cloth top, a layer of batting or wadding, and a woven back, combined using the technique of quilting, the process of sewing the three layers together. The pattern of stitching can be the key decorative element if a single piece of fabric is used for the top of a quilt, but in many cases the top is pieced from a patchwork of smaller fabric pieces; and the pattern and color of these pieces will be important to the design.
Appliqué is ornamental needlework in which pieces or patch of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn or stuck onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern. It is commonly used as decoration, especially on garments. The technique is accomplished either by hand stitching or machine. Appliqué is commonly practised with textiles, but the term may be applied to similar techniques used on different materials. In the context of ceramics, for example, an appliqué is a separate piece of clay added to the primary work, generally for the purpose of decoration.
Sewing is the craft of fastening or attaching objects using stitches made with a needle and thread. Sewing is one of the oldest of the textile arts, arising in the Paleolithic era. Before the invention of spinning yarn or weaving fabric, archaeologists believe Stone Age people across Europe and Asia sewed fur and skin clothing using bone, antler or ivory needles and "thread" made of various animal body parts including sinew, catgut, and veins.
A patchwork quilt is a quilt in which the top layer may consist of pieces of fabric sewn together to form a design. Originally, this was to make full use of left-over scraps of fabric, but now fabric is often bought specially for a specific design. Fabrics are now often sold in quarter meters. A "fat quarter" is one square meter folded into four and cut along the folds, thus giving a relatively square piece of fabric 50 cm on a side, as opposed to buying a quarter of a meter off the roll, resulting in a long thin piece that is only 25 cm wide.
The Guna, in the language itself spelled Kuna prior to a 2010 orthographic reform, are an Indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. The Congreso General de la Nación Gunadule since 2010 has promoted the spelling Guna. In the Guna language, they call themselves Dule or Tule, meaning "people", and the name of the language is Dulegaya, literally "people-mouth".
Quillwork is a form of textile embellishment traditionally practiced by Native Americans that employs the quills of porcupines as an aesthetic element. Quills from bird feathers were also occasionally used in quillwork.
Huipil[ˈwipil] is the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America.
Panamanian culture is a hybrid of African, Native Panamanian, and European culture - specifically Spanish. For example, the tamborito is a Spanish dance that was blended with Native American rhythms and dance moves. Dance is a symbol of the diverse cultures that have coupled in Panama. The local folklore can be experienced through a multitude of festivals, dances and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.
The history of quilting, the stitching together of layers of padding and fabric, may date back as far as 3400 BCE. For much of its history, quilting was primarily a practical technique to provide physical protection and insulation. However, decorative elements were often also present, and many quilts are now primarily art pieces.
The Kuna language, spoken by the Kuna people of Panama and Colombia, belongs to the Chibchan language family.
Embroidery in India includes dozens of embroidery styles that vary by region and clothing styles. Designs in Indian embroidery are formed on the basis of the texture and the design of the fabric and the stitch. The dot and the alternate dot, the circle, the square, the triangle, and permutations and combinations of these constitute the design.
Hmong Textile Art consists of traditional and modern textile arts and crafts produced by the Hmong people. Traditional Hmong textile examples include hand-spun hemp cloth production, basket weaving, batik dyeing, and a unique form of embroidery known as flower cloth or Paj Ntaub in the Hmong language RPA. The most widely recognized modern style of Hmong textile art is a form of embroidery derived from Paj Ntaub known as story cloth.
The Hat and Fragrance Textile Gallery is an exhibit space at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont which houses quilts, hatboxes, and various other textiles. The name "Hat and Fragrance" refers both to Electra Havemeyer Webb's collection of hatboxes and to the fragrant, herbal sachets used to preserve textiles. In 1954, Shelburne Museum was the first museum to exhibit quilts as works of art; prior to this exhibition quilts were only shown as accessories in historic houses.
Sewing is the craft of fastening or attaching objects using stitches made with needle and thread. Sewing is one of the oldest of the textile arts, arising the in Paleolithic Era. Although usually associated with clothing and household linens, sewing is used in a variety of crafts and industries, including shoemaking, upholstery, sailmaking, bookbinding and the manufacturing of some kinds of sporting goods. Sewing is the fundamental process underlying a variety of textile arts and crafts, including embroidery, tapestry, quilting, appliqué and patchwork.
Textile arts of indigenous peoples of the Americas are decorative, utilitarian, ceremonial, or conceptual artworks made from plant, animal, or synthetic fibers by native peoples of both North and South America.
Khayamiya is a type of decorative appliqué textile historically used to decorate tents across the Middle East. They are now primarily made in Cairo, Egypt, along what is known as the Street of the Tentmakers, centered in the Qasaba of Radwan Bey, a historic covered market built in the 17th century. The street is located immediately south of Bab Zuweila, and is located along the historic economic axis of Cairo.
Khatwa is the name given to appliqué works in Bihar, India. Khatwa is about designing by cutting of one fabric and stitching the pieces to another fabric. Khatwa is mainly used to create designer tents, canopies and shamianas. In textiles, applique is sometimes confused with patchwork. Though both techniques derive from the recycling of old fabrics by sewing different fabrics to create one piece, they are quite distinguishable. Patchwork refers to a variety of fabrics sewn together to create a single textile pattern. On the other hand, applique refers to a variety of coloured fabrics and ornaments, such as small round mirrors, layered on top of one another in order to create elaborate designs by means of various forms of stitching. There is no restriction to the type of fabrics used in the creation of applique items, and may even be of varying textures. It is often found alongside embroidery and can be sub-divided into two techniques. The simple 'play by ear' technique consists of the open use of an assortment of materials of various shapes and sizes, stitched together without much preparation. The more complex technique involves thorough planning of the design before any work is done with the materials. Khatwa is about designing by cutting of one fabric and stitching the pieces to another fabric. Khatwa is mainly used to create designer tents, canopies, shamianas and much more. Making of such tents involves work by both men and women. While cutting of clothes is done by men, women use their expertise in stitching part. Khatwa is also used in designing women garments as well. This is where the real talent of Bihar people is seen in the work. The designs created are more sharp, intricate and highly appealing. Most of the garments shop sell these highly artistic clothes. People in some villages of Bihar are involved only in art works and it is their main source of income. Since the same skills are passed down to generations, the expertise and innovations are immaculate. It is believed that applique work made its way into western India either from Europe or Arabia in the Middle East through trade contacts. It involves creation of designs by cutting one fabric and stitching the pieces onto another. “Khatwa” is used to craft decorative tents, canopies, shamianas, etc. A thick fabric and Geometric patterns are used while making the Tents on important occasion or functions.
The Sun Blas Rebellion was a revolt by the Kuna, to declare independence, in the San Blas Islands, in 1925.