Molas: Animals and Applique

2nd Floor Foyer Gallery

Molas: Animals and Applique | 05.27.23 – 11.25.23

From the Ruth Gast Historical and Southwest Collection at the Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center

Molas are a textile art form created by the Guna Indians of Panama. Guna tribeswomen living in Columbia and Panama use mola applique, a form of reverse applique incorporating three or more layers of fabric where each color used requires a layer of fabric. The appliques use multi-colored and multi-shaped designs. Traditional molas are found in museums and private collections and are still used as garments.

The quality of the mola is determined by the number of layers, fineness of the stitching, evenness and width of the cutouts, addition of details like zigzag borders, lattice work or embroidery, general artistic merit of design and color combination.

Guna women get their ideas from a variety of sources. Nature is a dominant theme because of their close association with birds, animals, sea life, plants and flowers in everyday living.

Tribal teachings, superstitions and village life also make up traditional subject matter. Acculturation has been an influence which produces graphic interpretations from magazines, comic books and advertising media. Geometric patterns are also popular, often interspersed with recognizable life forms.

Most designs can be interpreted to have a definite meaning; however, sometimes motifs can become vague and seemingly abstract. Even dreams, fantasies, monsters and spirits find their ways into the Guna designs.

The Guna rebellion that led to the legal recognition of Guna Yala as a semi-autonomous territory by the government of Panama was initiated when the government tried to prevent Guna women from wearing their traditional mola clothing.

The molas in the permanent collection of the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center were donated by Ruth Gast, John Peters, Ernestine Thomas, Wendy Rapp, the family of the late Shirley Barr, and others.





May 27, 2023 to November 25, 2023

  • Members: Free
  • Adults: $10.00
  • Children: $8.00
  • Military & Seniors 65+: $8.00

Located on the 2nd Floor of the Helen Thatcher White Galleries building.