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“Cristo” Molas.

In 1907 a Spanish priest named Father Leonardo Gasso began missionary work with the Kunas. In 1913, British born Baptist Anna Coope began her efforts to educate the Kunas and convert them to Christianity. These two missionaries competed fiercely for the souls of the Kuna, but with only limited success on a few islands.

But Kuna women have used Christian imagery – particularly crucifixion scenes – on molas for many years. In most cases, the Christ figure is rendered using black fabric. It is traditional for Kuna women to depict any “wakka” (stranger) as black-skinned because so many wakkas that they saw were black-skinned coconut traders from Colombia.

But in the case of Cristo molas, there is another reason that the Jesus figure is often black. A Catholic church in Porto Bello, Panama, displays a famous statue of Jesus carved out of dark wood. This well-known relic is called “the Black Jesus.”
Early Cristo Mola Cristo 1947-49 Mola
Dual-Cross Cristo Mola Blouse.  Unusual because of its depiction of two crosses per panel, this blouse appears to be quite early. Cristo Mola With Female Angels.  Collected in the 1940s, this mola displays a variety of angels and, apparently, at least one devil.
Cigarillo Cristo Mola Neka Heavens Mola
Cigar Box Cristo Mola.  How imagery from cigarillo advertising was mixed with a crucifixion scene is a mystery. Heavenly Mola.  The Kunas called this piece “Sapi Be Neka” – God’s place...or heaven.

Black Socks Cristo Mola Waka Cristo Mola
Stained Glass Mola.  Because much of the black fabric has disappeared, this Cristo mola resembles a stained glass window. Porto Bello Cristo Mola.  This mola was inspired by the famous “Black Jesus” statue in a Porto Bello church.
Pap Tummat Machereti Mola
Pap Tummat Machereti Mola.  The Kuna label for this mola shows that its maker understood that Christ was both man and God.