Write Around PAM: Kuna artist

Image Description: Fish Mola. Kuna artist. Cotton. 13 ¾ in x 17 ½ in. Bright red fabric with a fish embroidered on it. The fish is outlined in a thick black line with a bright blue line against it on the inside and a bright orange line on the outside. The fish is triangular shaped and facing the right. It has a large flat tail and small fins in front. Its mouth is small and beak shaped. It has a large black eye with a white outline. Its face is a series of lines of small dots that are yellow and red. Behind the eye, solid colorful lines: blue, black, pink, red, pink, scalloped black, blue, red, blue, black, yellow, red, yellow, scalloped black, blue, red, blue, black, orange, red, orange, scalloped black, blue, red, blue, black, green, red, green, scalloped black, blue, red, blue, black, yellow, red, yellow, scalloped black, blue, red, blue, black, orange, red, orange, scalloped black, blue. The tail has several horizontal lines of varying colors (green, yellow, white, red, orange). There are also lines of various colors between the outline of the fish and the edge of the fabric (black, yellow, orange, and purple). There are four shapes at the corners of the fish. The top left is a triangular shape with a green and black outline and yellow dots. The top right is a shape that resembles a bird with a long tail diving downward. It is outlined in yellow and black and has dark spots. The bottom right also resembles a bird diving and is outlined in green and black with yellow spots inside. The bottom left is flame shaped with blue and black outlines and yellow dots inside.
Kuna artist (Kuna), Fish Mola, cotton, 13 3/4 in x 17 1/2 in, Gift of Barbara Christy Wagner. Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, 2016.109.1

The Kuna are Indigenous people living in present-day Panama. Mola, the Kuna word meaning “to cover” are hand-sewn, embroidered blouse fronts and backs made and worn by Kuna women. Artists use a technique called reverse appliqué to create Mola, layering two to seven pieces of different-colored cloth together. The artist cuts away parts of each layer to form the design, then turns under and sews down the edges of the layers. Let’s contemplate the Fish Mola and its intricate design technique as inspiration for this week’s freewrite. Learn more about Mola from the Poster Project and make plans to come see and write with them in person.

First, take a few minutes to write about this work. Here are two prompts to help you get started. You can choose one, both, or write whatever else comes. Set a timer for 5 minutes and keep your pen or pencil moving.

Between the layers… / The first thing I noticed…

Now, read back over the piece you just wrote. Take a moment to underline words or phrases that stand out to you, that you find interesting or surprising or just like how they sound. “Cut away” the rest of the piece, and see what remains.

On a new piece of paper, write out your list of words or phrases and see what new story they want to tell. Set a timer for another 5 minutes and create something new. 

Writing in community is powerful. We are grateful to our longtime partner Write Around Portland for the writing prompts and inspiration. You can revisit past Sunday posts and look for continuing weekly posts through the year. Please share your work with us!  @writearoundpdx @portlandartmuseum #RespectWritingCommunity #WriteAroundPAM

Kuna artist, Fish Mola, cotton, Gift of Barbara Christy Wagner, no known copyright restrictions, 2016.109.1

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