They thought our color selection drab: chocolate brown and deep French Roast black. The Kuna women of Colombia wear bright mola blouses, neon happy. But we thought it delicious: the rich tones so close they almost vibrate with intensity. In the end, everyone was won over.
These Kuna artisans (now often spelled Guna, originally from the San Blas Islands of Panama) have conquerred a textile language uncommon in the world's lexicon of cloth. Reverse appliqué is the cutting away of one fabric (the black on top) to reveal another mysterious layer below (chocolate). And sometimes another below that . . . and that. The top layers, once cut, are then meticoulsy turned under and hand-sewn to keep it all precisely in place. Can you imagine the detail, the skill, the work of this??!
Kuna indigenous now living in Colombia, wearing their traditional mola blouses, work with Yasmin Sabet of Mola Sasa.
But, let's face it, it's the pink monkey that did it. We studied vintage molas with monkeys in them (we all agreed on loving monkeys). It was Rosemary, (second from right, above) who took up the complex challenge and made these exquisite creatures.
I once fell for a vintage mola offered at the exhibit of a collector-friend. Such intricate cosmology depicted, such mysterious depths! I had to have it; plunked down my money and began to rhapsodize about all I saw in it. That's a food processor, said my friend, his face matter-of-fact. I burst into laughter. But of course! Kuna (Guna) women will depict whatever they please, as it pleases them.
This jacket is my new favorite something, as rich as cocoa, as whimsical as a monkey's tail, as powerful as the women who create it. A perfect, weighty fit to wear into winter. And wear it proudly, this mysterious, one of a kind, exquisite creation. And do so, knowing that you've got the back of these women. And yep, this monkey's got your back, too.
Susan Hull Walker