Woman’s Mola Blouse
“Mola” translates to “shirt” or “clothing,” and the craft originated in Panama with the Guna people. The bright colors and geometric designs come from the tradition of body painting within the Guna women. They used paint from natural resources to decorate their torsos instead of clothing. Spanish colonization and contact with missionaries brought clothing, and the designs were transferred on to shirts. At first they painted on cotton, but then shifted to decorating them with appliqué. This would be worn with a wrap-around skirt and a headscarf.
This colorful mola has the Panamanian coat of arms on the front, surrounded by animals and triangles. The words “El escudo Panameno mi” which means “the Panamanien shield,” are on the front, and on the back it also says “three eagle,” “unchangeable form,” with the monogram LN. The back of the shirt features three birds surrounded by triangles. Connecting the appliqué panels and silk top is a band with what most people know as swastikas, but to the Guna it is an ancestral symbol called Naa Ukuryaa.
Circa: Early 20th Century
Material: Cotton and Silk
Dimensions: 18" wide, 23" tall, 25" sleeve to sleeve
Inventory number: WR4048