University of South Carolina

McKissick exhibits the artistic clothing of coastal Panama

The University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum will present “Artful Lives: Molas of the Kuna” April 9 - June 25, a showcase of the textile creations of the Kuna women of coastal Panama in the 19th century.

The Kuna women began experimenting with ways to transfer their extravagant body painting designs onto cloth and developed a clothing style unlike that of any other folk culture. These women used their styles as a mode of expression, taking great care in the designs of their “mola” blouses, as well as the combinations of skirts and scarves. Mola is an art form that uses a technique called “reverse appliqué,” and the sequence is to draw the design, baste, cut and sew. Today, the sale of these textiles is the second-largest source of income to the Kuna, as examples are collected by museums and artisans worldwide.

This exhibit draws from the 25-year collection of Jean E. Kane, a Columbia collector, who has collected mola crafts from around the world. Portions of her collection have never been exhibited before.

Lynn Robertson, McKissick Museum director, says the exhibit connects well with the museum’s interest in women’s expression.

“Like quilts, these creations are not only beautiful and inventive but also the products of a community that values the perpetuation of their traditional culture,” said Roberston.

For more information on this and other McKissick Museum exhibits, visit, or call 803-777-7251.

'Artful Lives'

  • What: Showcase of the textile creations of the Kuna women of coastal Panama
  • When: April 9 - June 25
  • Where: McKissick Museum

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 03/21/11 @ 3:30 PM | Updated: 03/21/11 @ 3:34 PM | Permalink