A Mola Workshop

Last week I had the opportunity to do something a bit different. Well, going out for anything other than necessary errands is different, so this was a very nice day. Molas are a fabric art form of the Guna Indians who live in Eastern Panama. Since COVID these people have lost their art sales and tourism dollars, their main income, so they have gotten creative about other ways to earn money to care for their families. I wrote a post in the past about their mola masks. They use their fabric art skills to make masks, something that everyone needs these days. My mola masks are my favorites, comfortable, breathable, and beautiful. Check out this post if you want to see them, or buy them for yourself.

Beautiful Masks! | The Panama Adventure

So, these ladies and their friend Victor had this idea to hold workshops to teach people how molas are made. If you need convincing that this art takes tons of skill and time, you will understand this after a workshop! The teacher put a pieces of white cloth on a piece of black cloth, drew a simple design, secured them together with basting stitches, and then cut along the lines of the design. Our job was to sew the cut edges, and then cut more lines as needed. After maybe 30 minutes of carefully sewing little stitches with a little needle, I had completed maybe three small lines. It’s not easy to make the stitches small and neat, without pricking your fingers. Nor is it something that can be done quickly, even with skill and experience. The teacher at our table said she had been sewing since she was eight years old.

Here’s a few pictures of the class. It was in a private room of a local restaurant in Boquete, and had 2 tables of 6 students each. Victor, the organizer, is in the gray t-shirt. He is also a Guna indian, but fluent in their language, Spanish, and English. He is also a tour guide in Panama CIty and San Blas, offering a different sort of tour to immerse people in the local culture and introduce them to the local people. He also works very hard helping local kids with food, books, education, opportunity, and lots of love to help lift them out of their challenging circumstances. (2) Localinpty KIDS Programme | Facebook

The young lady in jeans and a black shirt is a bilingual US/Panamanian who was there to help with translation and anything else as needed. The teachers were two lovely Guna women. You can see them in their traditional dress in the photos, with the molas worn in the traditional way as part of their clothing on the upper body. The other photo is a hat band I bought for a gift. Along with the traditional molas, they make other useful items that people can buy.

Thank you Kathy Donelson (In the photo above with the two ladies, and her super cool blue skirt) for allowing me to use these beautiful photos! On the left is the two teachers with a table of their work in front of them. The lady with the red head scarf also has the traditional beaded arm and leg decorations. Victor explained that it takes a considerable amount of time to put them on, and they are to protect the skin from the sun. I especially love the smiling photo of her on the right. It really shows the lovely personality of one of these gentle and loving people.

The workshops have gone very well so they are planning to do more of them. If you are in Panama, go to one if you can. Contact Victor and he can get you signed up. WhatsApp is +507 61187621 or email at localinpty@gmail.com or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/victorprez  Or, if you want to arrange a private class, or a workshop in another area, talk with Victor. Maybe he can arrange it.

April 9th, 2021 (Panama City)
April 16th, 2021 (Coronado)
April 23rd, 2021 (Pedasi)
April 30th, 2021 (Boquete)

I’m glad I could make it to the workshop and see some friends, and make some new friends. I’ve talked with Victor on line a lot so it was especially fun to finally meet in person! I hadn’t been to Boquete in a year, so it was also nice to make the drive up there and be reminded of how incredibly beautiful it is here.

Other than that… we are anxiously waiting for the rains to resume and this hot, dry, and windy summer weather to be over. It should happen any day now. The virus numbers continue to slowly drop, and I hope this holiday weekend doesn’t change that. The number of people in the hospital is lower than I’ve seen it in a very long time. Vaccines are coming, but slowly, because supply coming in has been much lower than promised. But this month, more is supposed to be coming from a couple other sources. Meanwhile, we keep on keeping on, and give thanks that we are doing fine.

Happy Easter everyone!

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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2 Responses to A Mola Workshop

  1. Deborah Curtis says:

    What an experience to see how molas are made! They are so beautiful! And I can’t imagine sewing those tiny stitches. Thank you so much for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

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