The intricate blouses made and worn by the Kuna Indian women of Panama, known as molas, are decorated with designs that illustrate aspects of Kuna life and culture. The themes and objects depicted on these garments are incredibly varied; they include: household items, Kuna political meetings, symbols of healing, myths and girls puberty ceremonies as well as designs inspired by the outside world such as helicopters, tractors, Panamanian and American political figures, boxers and comic books. Using an ethno-aesthetic perspective, Dr. Salvador will discuss the history of the mola and explore Kuna artistic criteria and the concepts of form and beauty held by the artists themselves.
Mari Lyn Salvador began her research into the textiles of Kuna women in 1966. She is currently the director of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley.