In the wake of the Conquistadors, Christian missionaries came to the San Blas Islands. They introduced one of its most exciting pictorial themes, that of biblical stories. The Christian views were a radical departure from traditional Guna mythology. From the very beginning, artisans were attracted to the visual forms of religious symbolism in Christianity and incorporated them into their stitchery. The cross, for example, which had previously been no more than a natural design element carried over from the Guna's love of body painting, soon took on a new Christian meaning.


Christ on the Cross [1997.1.294]

This mola shows Christ on the cross. This is a theme that, among Guna women who have become Christian through missionary influence on the islands, is often chosen as one of the more important subjects to depict. There are usually figures to the right and left. Very often the Christ molas have orange or red as the foreground color. Here you can see the fingers and toes of the figure of Christ as well as the crown of thorns and the nails in his feet.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden [1997.1.177b]

The Old Testament story of Adam and Eve has broad appeal for mola-makers. The use of colors and layering in this mola created a three-dimensional quality to the picture. Note the neck-hole still attached, because only the sleeves were removed from this piece which was not completely disassembled as most are.

Moses Found by the Pharaoh's Daughter [1997.1.297]

At the top of the mola, we see the caption “El Babe Moses,” or, “The Baby Moses.” The mola depicts the baby Moses in his basket afloat among the reeds just as the Pharaoh’s daughter discovers him. One interesting feature of this mola is how much fine needlework is included in the form of embroidery.

A Church or Cathedral [1997.1.296]

This is a vivid depiction of a very fancy church or cathedral. There are seven small figures peeking out from the towers of the church and birds flying around. Quite often in the Guna mythology, birds represent souls. However, birds are also often added to a mola to fill up space. Cathedral molas are very unusual.

Christ Carrying the Cross [1997.1.295]

This mola shows Christ on his way to Calvary carrying the cross. It shows that moment when he stumbled and Simon of Cyrene was forced by the soldiers to also take up the cross. The colors used for the cross seem to make it stand out from the picture.


Infant Jesus in Manger [1997.1.300]

This mola shows Jesus in the manger and an angel hovering over and looking down at the baby Jesus. Dating to the 1970s.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden [1997.1.299]

This mola shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Note the interesting depiction of fig leaves on Adam. Eve is demurely hidden behind Adam. The Garden of Eden is depicted with the flora and fauna, one parrot and another bird. This is a very unusual mola done by a master mola-maker.

Saint Francis of Assisi and Birds [1997.1.231]

The theme of Saint Francis of Assisi with birds is very popular with the Gunas who, through missionaries are very familiar with the Christian story. However, molas based on Christian teachings are not purely biblical in origin. Considering the Guna’s love of birds forms in their designs, it is only natural that they would be drawn to the story of Saint Francis.

St. Michael, the Devil and the Scales of Justice [1997.1.307]

This mola depicts the scales of justice and Saint Michael in confrontation with the devil, an extremely unusual theme. The stitching is exquisite so we assume that it was created by an artist of major importance. For example, note the fine embroidery of the hair on Saint Michael. The embroidery all over the mola is carefully and evenly done as is the tucking and stitching.