Here's an opportunity to acquire a rare & beautiful piece from the Guna peoples of Guna Yala...
Molas are handmade textiles, utilizing a reverse appliqué technique. These mola panels are part of the traditional costume of the women of the indigenous Guna people of the island archipelago, Guna Yala, of Panama and Colombia -a matriarchal society! The Guna women begin to learn this skill at a very young age, as the mola designs are synonymous with their culture. These moles are made from cotton scraps of fabric and depict a synthesis of their traditional culture, along with influences from the last 100 or so years. The designs were developed from ancient body paintings, which the women used to decorate their upper bodies. Over time, these paintings transitioned to the blouses or tops we see, as part of the traditional dress. These molas may take anywhere from 2 weeks to six months to create, and are considered very collectible today. Traditionally, a set of twin or related panels is created, and used as a front and back base, to create a blouse that will be worn only once or twice to a special event or occasion in that woman's life. After wear, the blouses are often disassembled and the mola panels sold off, or kept as a souvenir. It is somewhat rarer to find the entire blouse, versus the panels alone.
In this example, we have two three-layer panels, with the front depicting a huge bird of prey, with wings spread eagle, and a snake in its grips. At the top pf the panel are a few letters reading 'Marcarc', as well as a few more letters hidden within the snake's pattern. The negative space has been filled with colorful vertical slats, which its said, are meant to represent the rays of sunlight that beam though the bamboo walls of the houses of the Guna Yala people. The back panel depicts two birds (birds are considered sacred animals among the Guns Yala) with tail feathers almost intertwined, and some sort of significant creature or symbol below them, in the foreground. At the top of both panels are small hand-made triangles creating a rick-rack or zig-zag pattern, called "dientes" which symbolize teeth chomping or biting away at evil spirits. The fabric that consists of the upper body is an old, 1940's Hawaiian style fabric in cotton -I was able to find 'An original Kulani design, 'Plumeria'' marked on the selvage at inside of cuff. The entirety of this piece was sewn by hand, without sewing machine assistance. The level of craftsmanship is this piece is very, very high. The overall condition is excellent to very good, with some stains throughout; one sprinkle of stains at front panel, a small grey dot stain at back left near hem, a few lighter stains peppered throughout hem, one decorative string missing from neck, and one small area where the fabric has lifted from the seam. Please see photographs for full details, sorry no maker's marks or signatures.
- 16.5 inches across from shoulder to shoulder
- 5.5 inch sleeve length
- 11.5 inch cuff opening
- 40 inch chest
- 22 inch total length from shoulder to hem
Feel free to contact me with any questions or inquiries
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