Ilene Danchig traveled all over the globe finding her textile treasures, but one people and one place in particular held a special place in her heart: the Kunas from the San Blas Archipelago.
Molas are body coverings that originate from the Kuna people. Christian missionaries arrived in San Blas in the late 1800s and were shocked that the native people were not clothed. Therefore, the Kunas began making the molas modeled after their traditional body-painting and tattoos. They utilized a reverse applique technique creating intricate, maze-like designs. The Kuna people believed in evil spirits and negative energies and used the molas as a means of protection. They thought evil spirits could settle in empty spaces or could easily become lost in the labyrinth of their designs which is why their molas are tightly packed with intricate motifs.
Other motifs and their meanings:
- Triangles- Symbolize bamboo huts which is the home of the Kuna family.
- Vertical Slots- Symbolize sun shining through the bamboo walls of traditional Kuna homes.
- Zig Zag Lines- Teeth biting away evil spirits.
We are lucky enough to have several of these beautiful molas in our archive! Here are some of our favorites (although, let’s be honest, they are all our favorites):