Panama

I just arrived from Panama full of inspiration and happy to share time with amazing local people willing to talk and smile any time!

I took the oportunity to know a bit more about indigenous artisanal work, focus on Kuna and Ngobe-Bugle comunities.

The Kuna have a population of around 47,000 members.  They migrated from the Darien region (before Colombia) of Panamá to the San Blas Islands on the Atlantic coast.  In 1938, after a long struggle,  the Comarca of San Blas (Kuna Yala), a semi-autonomous territory, was recognized by the Panamanian government.
I was helping kuna´s women to clean bamboo to be used for men to build their "cabañas"

I was helping kuna´s women to clean bamboo to be used for men to build their "cabañas"

Kuna man building "cabañas"

Kuna man building "cabañas"

Two days later the "cabaña" almost finished

Two days later the "cabaña" almost finished

Kuna comunity

Kuna comunity

Although you might think the "cabañas" are simple, in fact they are....but they are built on pieces of paradise!!!! Almost 365 islands (one for each day of the year), unfornunetely the climate change is affecting to this comunity as some of the island can be covered by the sea!

The traditional costume of a Kuna woman consists of a patterned blue cotton wrapped skirt, red and yellow headscarf, arm and leg beads, gold nose rings and earrings and the many layered and finely sewn mola panel blouse. 

Kuna´s women in of the Kuna Yala comunities showing me how to make a mola

Kuna´s women in of the Kuna Yala comunities showing me how to make a mola

Geometric molas are the most traditional, having developed from ancient body painting designs.

Many hours of careful sewing are required to create a fine mola. The ability to make an outstanding  mola is a source of status among Kuna women.

The Ngobe-Bugle  are Panama's largest Indigenous group with around 164,000 members. They live in the mountainous western provinces of Chiriqui, Veraguas and Bocas del Toro.  Although the Ngobe-Bugle have recently had their territories recognized as a Comarca by the government they continue to be threatened by outsiders.
Ngobe-Bugle women teaching me how to weave a Chacara bag.

Ngobe-Bugle women teaching me how to weave a Chacara bag.

Chacara bags are woven from the fiber of the wild pineapple plant or other natural fibers like pita.  The Ngobe-Bugle use these bags for transporting everything from babies to market goods on the mountainous trails of their tribal homeland in western Panama. 

Every Ngöbe owns several chácaras of various sizes that they use just as their ancestors did. Gigantic chácaras take nine months to complete and are used as baby cribs. Medium-sized chácaras are used daily as shoulder bags. Large chácaras are for carrying produce from the fields.

I was impressed by the amount of work that goes into each chácara.

My characa bag with snake pattern

My characa bag with snake pattern

The Emberá, has an estimated population of 20,000, inhabit the Darien rainforest of Panamá.  This tribe along with the Wounaan were formerly known as the Choco because they migrated from the Choco province of Colombia in the late 18th century.  Both the Emberá and the Wounaan have a similar river basin culture.

Women of the Wounaan and Emberá tribes make elegant baskets from the fibers of the nahuala plant and chunga palm which grow the Darién Rainforest of Panamá. Each beautiful basket is a unique example of tribal folk art. 

Emberá marsks

Emberá marsks