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Art of the Kuna Yala, Paper Molas

7th Grade Art

Carrie Smith

on 19 August 2014

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Transcript of Art of the Kuna Yala, Paper Molas

Art of the Kuna Yala:


Molas are one of the primary expressions of the visual arts in Cuna society.

All genuine Molas are created and worn by Cuna women. Many hours of careful sewing are required to create a fine mola. Designs are always original and are an opportunity for women to express themselves and demonstrate their talent. The ability to make an outstanding mola is a source of status.

Compare and Contrast

How are these two artworks similar?
How are they different?

Compare and Contrast

How are these two artworks similar?
How are they different?

Nautical themes are popular to the people living in the midst of
a vast sea.

Parrots, storks, and turkeys live around these islands & are held in high esteem by mola makers.

Framed as Art
Place mats 
Bedspreads or Quilts

What to do with a Mola…

Mola is the Cuna word for “cloth”. In reverse appliqué, the women layer fabric and cut intricate patterns, exposing colors in the underlying pieces of fabric. Molas are sewn with almost invisible stitches.

What is a Mola?

Kids go to school just like you. Unlike the homes, schools are built of cement blocks. Students are taught to speak and write in Spanish.

A day in the life of the Cuna KIDS:

Perform chores
Take care of family and animals
Fetch water
Cook and tend the fires in the sokakka
Work on their Molas

A day in the life of Cuna WOMEN:

Strongly knit tribal society
Moral and matriarchal society
Daughters are prized
Divorce is uncommon
Have a tradition or ritual for every event
Traditions are passed down orally or through molas

How did the Cuna come to live on the island of San Blas?

In 1513, Spanish explorer Vasco de Balboa invaded Panama.
The Cuna fought him for the mainland.
Around 160 years ago the Cuna escaped to San Blas Island in cayucos.

These tropical islands are small and many are surrounded by coral reefs. The islands are part of Panama, but are primarily run by the Cuna tribe.

A Central Motif
Smooth, Even, and Narrow Lines
Nearly Invisible Stitching
Many Layers of Fabric
Intricate Cutouts
Addition of Details

Mola Criteria:

With increased tourism, the demand for molas has grown and has become a source of economic prosperity.

Why are the women so important?

Paddle to the mainland in cayucos to tend their fields.
Fish for lobsters, red snappers, swordfish, sharks, and manta ray.
Bring home firewood and river water for the village.

A day in the life of the Cuna MEN:
Let’s Visit the San Blas Islands
Situated in the Caribbean Sea a few miles off the north coast of Panama, the San Blas de Cuna Islands are the home of the Cuna, a traditional society of Native Americans.

Inspired by the things they see in their everyday lives.

Mythological / biblical
Animals or marine life
Dominant Mola Colors: Red or Orange, & Black

Typical Mola Motifs:

Who Are the Cuna?
Full transcript