2023 July 30
Stitch, cut, fold and sew. It seems so simple in theory but is difficult in practice. It takes about 60 hours of work to create a mola of average complexity. These are true works of art that takes considerable skill plus an eye for color combinations.
To understand the development and use of molas, we suggest you visit the Mola Museum in Casco Viejo. Run by Fundacion Alberto Motta, admission is free as of this writing.
It is a small museum, the display rooms are upstairs. Each area has a theme. You learn how molas are created via the reverse appliqué technique and see many examples. Also you get a glimpse into the beliefs and thought patterns of the indigenous peoples.
The Guna world view consists of 3 levels: the Supra-World, the Middle World and the Infra-World. Humans live in the Middle World surrounded by the sun, moon, stars. The other worlds are reflections of what exists here, buildings, roads, plants and animals, except they are made of pure gold. Each level is essential to the others, complementing and opposing. None is better than the other two. Only the Neles, through their dreams can access all levels. Other Gunas try to enter these other realms through thoughts, acts and rituals.
Nussus are wood carvings that embody protective beings who mediate between people and spirits. Neles attribute different powers to these figures which can identify and heal diseases, fight evil spirits, and solve everyday problems.
Although the technique of reverse appliqué has been used in many parts of the world, the Guna women were the first to use it to create complete panels. They used these on the front and back of their blouses.
The oldest mola designs are geometric shapes, abstractions of natural forms. These designs are made to create 3-D and vibrational effects to fuse reality and the supernatural, thought to protect the women who wear them. The four design classifications are labyrinths, independent modules, diagonal curves and arrows.
Mola creation is considered a form of writing. Designs and techniques are part of a language that portrays their reality on fabric. They illustrate their daily activities, experiences and even popular characters, like a Spiderman on a colorful web.
Since you are already in Casco Viejo at the museum, you are close to Plaza Francia. On the seawall around the plaza are many shops run by Guna women, displaying molas for sale. After learning about these in the museum, maybe you will want to start your own collection.