Holy Mola

We are talking intricate stitching here. And copious amounts of patience.

What you are looking at are lines of cotton in different colours creating a picture. Every line is cut into the cloth and sewn to the layer underneath with the tiniest of stitches.

The pictures are created by women who live on the islands on the Atlantic side of Panama. Mola are usually made in pairs and sewn into a blouse, one at the front, one at the back.

I bought the mola with the two women facing each other years ago at a textile fair in London. It is an example typical of molas in that the image is always balanced, and often mirrored. The Cleveland Museum of Art is running an exhibiton titled Fashioning Identity: the Molas of Panama and points to duality, repetition, and equilibrium as frequent features.

Below is a picture of a blouse with a mola as the centre point. It was published as part of an article in the textile magazine Selvedge:

Image: Matilda Mola, after 1978. Republic of Panamá, Gunayala Comarca, Guna people. Cotton, synthetic fiber: reverse appliqué, appliqué, embroidery.