In the heart of the forest, the masks are made by the women working together in each village, freely and each one at their own pace. Within the family or talking with the neighbours, you often see the artisans working in their hammocks, rocked by the breeze.
These pieces are imagined and created far from urban life, the inspiration for each piece is drawn from the immediate environment, with individual and also collective imagination.
The women observe the forest, the animals that surround them but also their dreams and beliefs play an important role.
Each artisan is an artist who works with nature and who has their own style.
Try to imagine the slow rhythm of this work, imagine rocking in a hammock, the monkeys’ cries in the forest, the birds singing. Allow yourself to be transported by this ambiance. The artist needed time and patience to create this piece.
Take the time and feel this yourself.
To go and see the artisans, or for them to come to me, do not imagine that we simply take a bus or a car, it means abandoning the 4 x 4 and borrowing a little boat, often for many hours. This is the only way to get around as there are no roads or tracks. There are two large rivers and numerous tributaries linking the villages, which are generally situated on their banks. The same goes here, you need to allow time, and be patient … just imagine it!
An important aspect of their life is their relationship with the "hay" spirits, through their shamans.
The "hays" are the spirits of nature. You can find them in rivers, forests and animals, and living in every plant and every tree. In a way, they are a representation of the ancestors’ soul.
The masks we are offering you are derived from these shamanic rites. For the Indians, “There is no such thing as a useless creation, art for the sake of art does not exist, there are just functions”. These masks perform a function.
The Indians divide their world into two, the visible world and a parallel, invisible world. “The parallel world is superior to this universe which is in the shadow”, wrote Jean Marie Le Clézio, “it sees men, but men cannot see it”. Thus they invent ways to communicate with this parallel world.
We can trace the origins of the mola back to the traditions of the Kuna women. They used to paint their bodies with geometrical designs, using the natural colours available around them. Later, they started to sew these drawings onto Western-style shirts and slowly created original outfits, using traditional designs and colours. Molas are genuine art works made from different overlapping colored cloths.
Molas are sewn onto the Kuna women’s blouses. The blouses are worn with a wrapped Saburet cloth used as a skirt.
The mola, made exclusively by women, demonstrate their talents for creating a high quality look, while bearing witness to the traditions of Panamanian Indian art.
Their inspiration comes from the environment: from plants, from animals... But the molas particularly tell us about the Kuna myths and legends. Their designs reveal strange metamorphises, mazes, demons and fantastic creatures. The Kuna art is an art inspired by gods and goblins.