Mola with spiral designs

Dulemola with Spiral Patterns (detail)Eufrasina Ávila (Guna). Central America, Guna Yala (San Blas Islands/North Coast of Panamá). Guna. Ca. 2015. Cotton. Anonymous loan.

Dulemola, commonly known as a mola, can be understood as artistic testaments to resiliency and adaptation. Created by Guna women on the northern coast of Panama, these colorful cutwork pieces embody both tradition and innovation.

When the Spanish colonized the region, missionaries required that Guna women adopt European standards of modesty by wearing blouses. The women responded by creating an entirely new type of blouse that combined the gathered sleeves and yokes of European blouses with colorful “cut-work” panels forming the fronts and backs.

To create these panels, layers of colored cloth are pierced in myriad designs and patterns, revealing the colors underneath. Such a blouse, and the cutwork panel itself, is known in the Guna language as a dulemola. Many of the cutwork patterns are inspired by the traditional bodypainting designs the blouses were meant to cover. 

We've created a puzzle from a dulemola created from the "grandmother pattern." Though made in this century, its geometric design is deeply traditional.

Click here to see the complete dulemola.

Note the following as you complete the puzzle: 

  • Here, multiple small pieces of colored cloth are layered between the black top cloth and the orange base one, maximizing the number of colors of the twenty-eight spiral patterns.
  • Notice the way the various colors are balanced within the vibrant composition, yet without any particular regular alternation.
  • The black top cloth intensifies the color of the spiral designs. The continuous orange meander unifies the design.
  • Notice also that there is there is only one white spiral, a surprising touch. The spiral motif has maintained its importance in Panamanian design over the millennia and can be found on many ancient Panamanian ceramic objects in the Carlos Museum’s collections. 


Complete the puzzle