The Mola is the traditional clothing of Kuna women who inhabit the Caribbean side of Panama and part of Colombia. The mola is a reverse appliqué technique of sewing pieces of brightly coloured cloth on top of cloth with fine hand stitching. Its technique is transmitted from generation to generation, starting when girls are very young. Kuna women practise this traditional art as they listen to the chants of the political-spiritual community guides (Sailagan) in the house of Ibeorgun (kuna prophet), in their spare time, or while they await, seated under coconut palms, the return of their husbands who have gone to tend to their crops on the mainland, to fish or to hunt. The most traditional molas are geometric in design, stylized images of plants and animals, or the collective or individual interpretation of the traditions contained in the oral literature of the nation. These designs are reproduced time and again in order to preserve the collective memory of the Kuna people. However, there are always innovations and every artist's own skills are always present.
According to Kuna oral history, the mola comes from"Galu Metesorgit", a sacred place located in one of the dimensions of Mother Earth (Nabguana), invisible to ordinary beings, and which is shaped like the base of an earthen jar. The inhabitants of "Galu Metesorgit" are beings made of cotton. A great seer or nele called Kikadiryai brought the mola from this place, and it was later perfected by another nele called Naguegiryai who visited "Galu Dugbis", the place where the Kuna arts originate, and where the leader is the firefly. The materials used to make molas were constantly evolving, and new materials were incorporated over time - they began as vegetable fibre paintings directly on the body, then these designs were woven using cotton, and then sewn using cloth brought by the European invaders.
In 1925 the Panamanian government tried to change the Kuna traditional ways of life through the use of violence in what they called "the civilization of the savage tribes". They tried to eliminate traditional forms of government, the Kuna language and ceremonies, including the mola. This caused the Kunas to organize and take up arms in the so-called "Tule Revolution of 1925", led by Nele Kantule, Colman and many others. They proclained the independence of the Tule Republic - and from that moment on, the Kunas have possessed one of the most autonomous territories within another state in this continent which they called Abya Yala (the Americas). In Kuna Yala, the Kuna territory, they keep alive the teachings of Ibeorgun, including unity (guamakale), brother and sisterhood (guenatiguale), solidarity, and the love and defence of Mother Earth.
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