Our Object of the Week is a Mola (blouse) panel from Panama!
Molas are made by the Kuna people from the Kuna Yala islands off the coast of Panama. In the Kuna language, mola means “cloth,” and is traditionally worn by women as decorative blouse panels. Originally, Kuna women would paint their bodies with geometrical designs, but when the Spanish colonized the area, the women transferred their designs onto textiles. However in 1903, due to a law that said the Kuna had to lead “civilized lives,” the mola was banned, only to be made legal again after 1925 when the Kuna gained back their rights to practice their traditions. They are hand-sewn using a reverse-appliqué technique, which involves stacking the coloured pieces one on top of another and cutting through the layers to reveal the cloth below. Mola imagery is inspired by traditional Kuna symbols and stories, and from imported popular culture. The characters Pikachu and Ash Ketchum are depicted here from the popular series Pokémon.