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Blouse (mola)

The process of making a mola panel reverses the customary practice of appliqué. Instead of adding coloured pieces of cloth to another cloth, reverse appliqué involves stacking the coloured pieces one on top of another and cutting through the layers to reveal the cloth below. Additional embroidery and regular appliqué complete the designs.

Where was this textile created?

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Blouse (mola)
North America: Central America, Panama, San Blas Islands; Kuna people
c. 1980
Cotton and acetate cloth, reverse appliquéd, embroidered and sewn
48 cm x 70 cm
Gift of Audrey Hozack
T95.0210a Textile Museum of Canada

The Kuna people inhabit the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama. After centuries of struggle with the English, French and Spanish, the Kuna are now self-governing. A mola is a blouse worn by Kuna women. This mola features two similar (but not identical) panels on the front and back showing two fish swimming in opposite directions. Molas often show creatures swimming, flying and crawling, though they are also used as a canvas for political themes.

The Kuna express their strong aesthetic preferences through a variety of art forms. Qualities of mola design such as filled space, subtle asymmetry and slight variations on repeat patterns, are also features of Kuna chants, lullabies and flute music.

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