Being a traditional textile, Molas is created using several colorful layers and attached into a cloth, creating multi-color cloth. Applique techniques are used to create various shapes and pictures with the Molas. These clothes are worn by women, which means men and children don’t tend to wear them. A wrapped skirt known as cabaret is created using the Molas or Mola. Not only is the skirt being a part of the traditional dress, but the red or yellow scarf and the leg beards are created using the Molas.

Molas | Batik Institute
Molas | Batik Institute

What countries are Molas from?

The origin of the cloth is coming from Panama for a long time.  It is a specially made textile from Panama. Women create these clothes using their hands, and it is one of their traditional clothes. They are worn by the indigenous Women of Panama, known as Kuna. Although it is handmade, the quality and longevity have brought a higher demand for textiles.

The especially skilled indigenous people live in the San Blas islands. They don’t use any machine to produce Molas to save money. Since the traditional Molas are coming from the earliest times in Panama, they are well skilled to create them fast.  Although the primary demand is set as a handcraft, the customers are found all around the world.

What are the special colors used for Molas?

As the ancient Kuna people used to paint their bodies with the Mola patterns, they used the colors they had. Vegetables and fruit were the referred sources for extracting the colors. Green, Orange, and Black were the stable colors that they could extract from those sources. They kept painting bodies using them until the Spanish culture arrived.

Although the body painting turned into fabrics, colors remained uncaged. They now use different dyes and colorings for the Mola clothes as the demand has increased.

What does a Mola represent?

Although geometric patterns have been used for the bodies in ancient times, Panama people (Kuna) now things have changed into clothes. They believed that evil spirits could live in spaces, and these paintings can chase them away. After the arrival of the Spanish into the country, they learned several things. Being one of the most impressive techniques, fabrics were chosen to transform their body paintings into clothes.

What does Molas mean in Spanish?

The meaning of the Mola or Molas has come from the native Panama language, which states the meaning for Cute, Beautiful, or pretty. The symmetrical patterns have got an impressive appearance when looking from a neutral eye. They made several advantages in the past, which includes being mentally healthy as one of them. Therefore, they thought of this amazing artwork as a beautiful thing for their lives.

symmetrical patterns for molas
The difference between symmetrical and asymmetric
Make a mola with fabric layers

What are Mola symbols?

They neither have a specific meaning nor a shape.  Even if it is an artwork, they usually use the same symbols. The main intention of using these symbols is to cover the remaining space. As they believe in the presence of evil spirits in spaces, they cover every part of the art. Repeating symbols and patterns can be found in these artworks to cover the space.