Life Onboard
Eira Elena Esquivel Andreve: Indigenous Women Supporting Their Families through Textile Art, Jul 6, 2017
Eira Esquivel wears traditional Kuna dress, which includes mola, a colourful textile art.
Joining Peace Boat's 94th Voyage from Bermuda to Panama was guest educator Eira Elena Esquivel Andreve. Part of the Kuna Indigenous Community in Panama, Eira shared about the culture of the Kuna particularly details of mola - a colourful textile art form, for which this indigenous community is famous.

Eira shows participants some of the more modern mola designs.
Peace Boat participants learnt that the Kuna people have their own autonomy in Panama and their structure consists of a General Congress with heads of the communities gathering together to discuss administrative issues and how to pass on the culture of the people to the next generation. Part of the expression of their cultural identity is the art of mola, which forms part of the Kuna women's national dress. With the passing down of culture, daughters learn how to make mola at a very young age. Through the sales of mola, the indigenous women are able to support their families economically, with the money usually used to send their children to school. Other economic activities in the communities include agriculture and fishing.

Peace Boat participants take part in workshops to learn the very basics of making mola.
Participants had the opportunity to learn the very basics of making mola, which is made by hand of two or more layers of fabrics which are intertwined with each other. The traditional motifs of the molas represent nature such as flora and fauna, with more modern designs consisting of animals. Takada Nao from Kanagawa in Japan was excited to join the mola workshops saying "It is something I cannot normally experience so it is very special for me. But it's difficult because I am not used to sewing!".

Eira demonstrates the intricate work involved in making mola.
Eira also shared some of the rituals and dances of the Kuna people including the Noga Koppe dance, which is performed at festivals and traditional events. The most well-known ritual is Ico-Inna - when a girl begins puberty the community hold a festival and the girl receives a ring piercing through her nose to signify that she has now become a woman. While the ship visited Panama, Peace Boat participant Arita Mami from Okinawa in Japan had the chance to visit Eira's community, which consists of 89 families and is in Panama City. She was really excited when the group of participants arrived at the village because the children performed a welcome dance for them. "It was a really good opportunity to experience the local people's culture", she said of the visit. "

Peace Boat participants learn about the Kuna Indigenous Community in Panama from Eira.
It was apparent from Eira the importance of imparting the traditions and culture of these indigenous people to the next generations so that they can be kept alive. This is something for which the Kuna people have worked hard to do and continue to do so.