Collector shows off colorful ‘molas’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 23, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; On the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama, the women of the Kuna Indian culture make all the major decisions within their society.

They also create decidedly beautiful molas &045; hand-crafted cloth designs, which are worn on their blouses.

A former Natchez resident’s collection of the colorful art forms is currently on display at the Mostly African Market in the Angelety House on St. Catherine Street.

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&uot;One of my former students gave me my first mola, which got me interested,&uot; said retired elementary school teacher Beverly Walden.

The Kuna women use the reverse appliqu method to hand-craft the molas, stacking and stretching layers of colored cloth, and then cutting out intricate design patterns that are turned under and hand-stitched.

&uot;They wear them on the front or back of their blouses,&uot; said Walden, who uses some of her collection as pillows.

The molas have a look and feel entirely different from direct appliqu products, such as quilts.

&uot;If you look at the mola, it has a depth that direct appliqus lack,&uot; said Thelma Williams, who directs Project Southern Cross, a summer youth program from Angelety House.

&uot;We invented the Mostly African Market to raise funds for our summer youth program.

We want to keep our youth interested in education,&uot; said Williams, who also retired from a teaching career.

&uot;We close the market from May to September to focus solely on the youth program,&uot; said Williams, adding that the students benefit from a diverse local culture.

&uot;Natchez really teaches our children well,&uot; said Williams.

Owned by the city, the 150 year-old building was restored with a grant in 1979 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The mola exhibit will be on display at the Angelety House Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. until May 31.