Archive for March 27th, 2010

Kuna Molas

Traditional Kuna Mola

Sometimes you’re reminded how expansive this world is and how little you know about so many things in it.

This is a good thing.  It reawakens the curiosity.  Makes you want to spackle over the cracks and gaps in your knowledge with new information.  And gaining new knowledge is never a bad thing.

A few days ago I presented a new painting, Through the Labyrinth, and a reader commented that it reminded her very much of the molas of the Kuna people.  To my dismay, I realized I had never heard of the Kuna people of Panama nor was I familiar with their brightly colored and intricately patterned shirts, which are called molas.

So, this morning I have been taking a crash course on the molas and culture of the Kuna people, who are an indigenous people living in Panama and Colombia.  The molas evolved from a traditional form of body painting into the present textile versions with the coming of the Spanish colonizers and missionaries.  They often use geometric patterns as well as colorful representations of tropical birds and animals.

I was most taken with the geometric patterns of the molas.  They have a great sense of completeness about them.  I can’t fully explain what I mean by that.  It’s as though, while being representative of things in the Kuna world, the patterns are a complete world  unto themselves.  Maybe I simply mean that they have universal meaning.

I don’t know.  They’re just wonderful to look at and take in.  And I’m sure you’ll see elements from these creep into my work at some point soon.  It can’t be helped.

Kuna Flag of 1925

Now, if the pattern directly above reminds you of  the swastika, don’t be alarmed.  The swastika was and is a symbol for many cultures throughout all the world, including the Kuna people, often symbolizing stability and harmony.  It was actually used in the flag which was used as a symbol of their autonomy in a revolt against the Panamanian government in 1925.  They changed the flag less than two decades later when the Nazis forever altered the world’s perception away from the swastika’s true meaning.  But for the Kuna the swastika still holds its ancient meaning and, hopefully, always will.

Hopefully, always in peace in their native land…

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