Oil Painting on canvas
20 × 20 in.
(updated with Caribbean Sea backdrop, April 23, 2013)
The Caribbean Sea and San Blas Islands, off of Panama, form the backdrop for a surreal scene, where a native Kuna girl rides the back of a “piglet” mola that she has crafted.
This central and lower part of the work is painted to look like a Mola— a textile craft, specific to the Kuna tribe in Central America. A Kuna girl is traveling across the island, in a dream, on the back of her creation, with her parrot, as her sidekick.
Mola’s are hand sewn decorative items, traditionally panels sewn into a blouse; but now also sold to collectors. They are made from several layers of solid colored, cotton fabric, cut to various depths, folded back, and sewn down, to reveal color from underneath and to create shapes, in the method of reverse appliqué.
The designs are generally something from the everyday life of the Kuna people: turtles, pot bellied pigs, fish, flowers, etc., and filled, otherwise, with maze-like geometric patterns. The rectangular Molas, traditionally, are sewn into blouses and worn by the Kuna women, before the garments are taken apart, washed, and the beautiful panels sold to tourists.
Collectors have been interested in Molas primarily since the 1970’s. Tourism has become an ever-important part of the culture, especially after the 1989 removal of Manuel Noriega from power in Panama. Once Panama resumed its place as a world finance center, and tourism there rebounded, more travelers learned of the native Kuna (aka “Cuna”) culture on the Archipelago, off the coast of Panama.
The Kuna bucked the Panamanian government in 1925, when Panama ruled that they could no longer wear traditional dress or practice their religion. The Caribbean, San Blas Island natives have remained semi-autonomous to this day. They speak their own language, Kuna, although often men also speak Spanish, as they make the trip to Panama City, Panama to trade.
Note. Started in October, 2012, this work was posted (version 1) January 31, 2012, with an abstract curtain of (palm) leaves at the top. Updated in early April, once, the recent update was completed with the Caribbean Sea as the backdrop, April 23, 2013.