Els Mommers – Country – Literature


This was a vey difficult topic for me, since Kuna literature is mainly oral. But it is a crucial aspect of Kuna-life and includes the various events that occur in the central gathering house: chanting of ritual greetings, myths, legends and Kuna history.

Kuna healers and chiefs have also produced images for at least a century. These images consists of rows of small figurines, boats, flags, leaves or flowers and are traditionally drawn on planks of balsawood. These pictures are used as a didactic tool.

The pupil of a shaman (a chief) spends long days in his master’s hut and the teaching is based on two separate forms of learning:

  1. Is reciting a passage until it is learned by heart.
  2. Learning based on pictograms.

These images the pupil must engrave in his memory and then learn to copy.

Kuna pictography doesn’t describe all the words that are recited.

                  (source: The art of being Kuna)

I found some picture writing in the above mentioned book.

Because the Kuna are reluctant to talk about orally transmitted heritage it is difficult to gain an insight into their many legends and songs. This problem is intensified by their use of metaphor.  “Herta Puls”

At the bottom of my piece I have taken a sentence out of one of their legends: “The village of transformations”  The middle part are two symbols from : The village of darkness” and the top symbol stands for: “Clouds and drizzle”

These symbols are put on the fabric by monoprint and are extensively embroidered by machine. Like on all the other Panama pieces the top is an original mola and I have taken a  very small part of the same mola for the bottom .

The whole process can be seen on my blog: http://kunamola.blogspot.com

Back view:

Detail view:


  1. Fantastic interpretation, it was a difficult subject and I feel that you have depicted the Kuna oral history in a the only way possible, Good thinking.

  2. You have been able to transform a difficult theme into a beautiful and exhaustive quilt. Bravo.

  3. Well done Els, you have a found a lovely of way of interpreting a subject which was very difficult for your choice of country. Good to see that you have managed to include a mola to keep the thread running through your quilts.

  4. What an interesting way to approach the subject ! Adding the mola at the top and at the bottom of your piece brightens the quilt and the red colour gives it light.

  5. As always your creations are very interesting. I love the combination of the authentic works. The Mola. The strong colors and the unusual idea.

  6. A detailed piece of work illustrating a fascinating oral tradition – success even if the subject was difficult. I love the inclusion of the mola.

  7. Your creativity always amazes me. Well balanced and strong design and very interesting story. Love it!

  8. Such a cleaver way to interprete the verbal and pictoral art of the Kuna Indians of San Blas. I now see how Molas are used as “living history books”. Amazing work as always. Well done!

  9. I love pictograms and the ones you have used are so clever. I think that a picture speaks a thousand words and I can understand why the Kuna people use them. You have created a beautiful quilt that I would not tire looking at and finding new treasures each time. I love it

  10. What a powerful and interesting piece you have created. I continue to marvel at the ways you have incorporated molas into your work.

  11. studiociboulette

    Once again your creativity is endless. I love your piece. Bravo!

  12. Such an interesting background story. Not easy to deal with this subject in your chosen country. Clever to have used the pictograms, it invites us to try and translate them into language. The inclusion of the mola makes for a beautiful finish. Love your work.

  13. A very clever idea to create the Kuna “literature” in pictograms. It really looks like it is drawn on balsa wood. Well done how you divided the molair a top and bottom part.

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