On April 4th, 2017, the Embassy of Panama in Japan, in collaboration with the Cervantes Institute in Tokyo, carried out the launch of the Mola book titled “Molas: Dress, Identity, Culture’’, written by the Australian author, Dr. Diana Marks, which took place at the Cervantes Institute in Tokyo.
During the opening remarks, the representative from the Cervantes Institute, Mrs. Maria Luisa Carranza reiterated the continuous support of the institute in order to spread the Spanish and Latin American culture, and in this case the Panamanian indigenous culture. Also she praised Dr. Marks’ work as an important academic reference to understand the origin of the Molas and its function as a method to express the identity of the Guna culture.
On the other hand, H.E. Ritter N. Diaz, Ambassador of Panama in Japan, during his introductory remarks, pointed out that the presentation of Dr. Marks’ book marked an important step for the study of the Guna group, because it shows the process of the cultural authentication to explain the origin of the Molas. He also conveyed his gratitude to Dr. Marks for her interests in the study of this ethnic group, describing the Molas as a bridge connecting Panama with two important countries in Asia-Oceania region, Japan and Australia.
In addition, Ambassador Diaz mentioned that Dr. Marks is one of the most important Molas collectors in the world, who held exhibitions in Tokyo in 2009 and Washington D.C. in 2016. She will carry out a new exhibition in the Tobacco and Salt Museum in Tokyo in September of 2018.
Dr. Marks indicates in her book that the Molas are considered not only as colorful panels made of two or three layers of fabrics and worn by Guna women, but also give a plenty of images, such as animals and plants, maps of Panama and its neighboring countries, biblical scenes, popular Western culture, political representations in certain moments of Panama, among others.
After the exhibition in Tokyo in 2009, Dr. Marks took Mola lessons in the Guna Yala region in Panama and also in Japan, where a lot of Mola classes take place, gaining a better understanding of this Panamanian handicrafts.
Later on, she entered the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, where she earned a doctorate in Molas in 2012. Her work focused on fundamental two topics: spread and understanding about the origin of the Molas, and : the reason why the Molas continue to be sewn and worn by Guna women.
Her research brought her to 6 ethnographic museums in Panama, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Austria, covering a 100 year period since 1906, when the oldest Mola was discovered among the indigenous textile collections.
Currently, her research deals with the iconography of the Molas, which was published in the Dress Section of the Journal of the Costume Society of America, explaining how the Guna men defended the right of their women to use the Molas at the first half of 20th century.
Dr. Marks’ presentation concluded with a network cocktail and an exhibition of Panama and Molas in the gallery of the Cervantes Institute.