The Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich is showing its mola collection – rectangular textiles from Panama – for the first time. The Panamanian Guna have become famous for these textiles. The women of this indigenous society sew molagana (pl.) using three different appliqué techniques. Each piece is unique, which is only one reason why these colourful textile fragments are very popular on the ethno and art market. In the latter they are seen as two dimensional image carriers of inexhaustible variation and have acquired a status as fine art in this market.
Returning from the textile art to the artefact – a women’s blouse sewn by the women themselves with two molagana front and back – the exhibition places the mola next to other artefacts in the context of Guna history and culture. Is a mola more than a piece of fine art? Beautiful, yer dailege, are the molagana, are the women, are the Guna, is the world.
Picture: Two Guna women on the isle of Ogobsuggun, Gunayala, Panama. Photographer: Margherita Margiotti 2003.