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KUNA YALA – Summer 2011

In the sumer 2011, I spent a month traveling around the San Blas archipelago along the Atlantic coast of Panama. This group of Islands, about 365, are inhabited by Kuna people, an independent community of about 40.000 souls, settled in about 50 of the islands. All the other Islands are home to coconut palms, sand and birds. Kuna people arrived in the islands about 200 years ago. They came from the rain forest of Chocó, in Colombia, where they suffered from Spanish invasion and  violence from other indigenous groups, malaria, floods etc.

Life in the islands revolves around fishing, navigating to main land to grow crops as plaintain and yuca, taking care of the many children, and making molas (fabric apliqué art).There is some tourism in the islands but facilities are extremely basic.

I went there because I love the ocean,  and I have always been fascinated by molas, the art of Kuna women, this exquisite expression of form and color, that reflects their observation of the world , and is elaborated through layers of skillfully cut and sewn fabric.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Kuna Yala community for sharing their life with me during the 25 five days spent together. I am especially thankful to Griselda for feeding me with delicious fish and ‘Tule massi”(coconut soup). To Argelia for being my friend and for sharing her art with me, to 10 year old Karen, who helped me see her community through her eyes, to Teodoro, the visionary artist of Nalunega, for his knowledge of Kuna mythology, and his beautiful wood carvings, to Elias, the teacher, to Edi in Isla yerba, Demetrio in Isla Tigre, Arquimedes, Alex, Ana Lida, Aura, Argelinda, Ildia, Isabel, and many more.

Here are some photos of the trip:

Arriving to Kuna Yalaisla-1vista-desde-isla-yerba

storm is coming with water tornado

storm is coming with water tornado

Women in Nalunega

Women in Nalunega

woman displaying her molas in Nalunega island

woman displaying her molas in Nalunega island

Sobi making a mola in Corbiski Island

Sobi making a mola in Corbiski Island

canoe sailing

canoe sailing

Teodoro, the visionary artist of Nalunega

Teodoro, the visionary artist of Nalunega

Wood carving by Teodoro

Wood carving by Teodoro

Wood carving by Teodoro

Wood carving by Teodoro

wood carving by Teodoro

wood carving by Teodoro

Mola making

Mola making

Molas in Nalunega

Molas in Nalunega

In Isala yerba with Matilde and child

In Isla yerba with Matilde and child

houses on the water

houses on the water

After the rain

After the rain

And some Sketches and watercolors:

Vue from Isla Yerba

Vue from Isla Yerba

Houses in Corbiski Island

Houses in Corbiski Island

Vue in Nalunega

Vue in Nalunega

Coconut grove in Isla Yerba

Coconut grove in Isla Yerba

Edi's family in Isla Yerba

Edi's family in Isla Yerba

san-blas-1

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