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Molas; Fabric Artistry of the Kuna Indians in the San Blas Islands

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San Blas Anchorage

A relatively small group of over 300 islands and bits of land at the eastern entrance to the Panama Canal, the San Blas Islands are lived on and governed by the Kuna Indians, an indigenous people that have made these islands their home for centuries. Specific to this culture are the making of Molas, multi pieces of various colored fabrics sewn together with a pattern created by piercing through the various layers to different degrees, and then completed by intricate needlework.

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Molas For Sale

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Molas Market and the Kuna Indian Village
The tradition of the Mola is believed to have originated with the Kuna Indians and is descendent from a form of body painting with natural dyes in geometric patterns. As cloth became available to this culture around 170 years ago, the body painting transformed into cloth panels decorated in these same patterns, which are then formed into clothing. Molas are handmade individual cloth panels using a reverse applique technique. From two to seven layers of different colored cloth are sewn together, with the pattern revealed by cutting parts of each layer away. These panels are then sewn together to make shirts and skirts. When a woman tires of the shirt or skirt, the panels are disassembled and sold as individual panels. The panels might show some wear or stitching marks from garment construction, however this actually adds value to the Mola as the panel is considered to have been made for authentic use.
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Kuna Indian Beach
Molas can only be found for purchase in the San Blas Islands, which are a very interesting and off the beaten track yacht charter location. Here warm tropical waters and breezes mix with a unique culture, which is most easily experienced by cruising through these islands on a crewed yacht charter.

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San Blas Banana Plantation

2016-09-02T15:03:14+00:00