Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kuna Women

Leaving on a jet-plane today back to home in FL. Coming down here to Panama has been an exciting, creative journey and I have many plans  for our return next month. My dreamy (some might say loco), Pisces mind has been spinning with ideas! In NOT looking for my next photo project, it came to ME. I was working the past couple weeks on Danny's website, which I'm pretty pleased with:, and in looking for Mola images I fell into some reading on the Kuna Indian's here in Panama.
I found a women in Austria who has created a partnership for the Kuna's within the San Blas region (the Figi of Panama), a place I plan to travel to upon my return. She is raising money through the sales of Mola's to contribute to a scholarship fund for the Kuna children. LIGHTBULB! Perhaps, I could shoot a photo essay and create an exhibit/fundraiser to the cause. Mrs. Austria loved the idea and has given me some useful info that I plan to pursue upon.
With that, I've started to build on a sort of Kuna portfolio so that I may propose a shoot to the Kuna people themselves and later an exhibit here in the "touristy" Casco Antiguo area of Panama City.
Here's some early samples:
Kuna simply translates as "People" in their native language. As I mentioned, they primarily reside in the paradisal island region of San Blas and spread along the Darien coast of Panama and spill over to the Western reaches of Colombia. 
Representing the largest indigenous group in Panama, they are the second "shortest" civilization next to the Pigmies in the world. Also, there is a large, and specific civilization of Albino's within the Kuna population. 
They are a female dominating society, YES! Kuna women dress in kind've a celebration of their "woman hood". When a young girl enters puberty there is a small festival within the village. Differing to most cultures including my own where "becoming a women" feels more like a curse! Their traditional attire consists of loud fabrics which themselves are called Mola's and simply translates to "clothing" in their language. We outsiders know mola's as ornate, quilt like fabrics typically portraying images of wild life, specifically fish like images due to their waterscape surroundings.

The Kuna here in the city are very weary. I don't blame them for considering a Gringa like me with a big camera to be a threat and potentially exploiting their culture. They demand me to pay $1 every time I snap a shot of them at their mola stands. 
3 snaps of my shutter= $3.
I'm cool w/ that. However, I'm somehow planning to work w/ the Kuna's directly to communicate that my cause is theirs. Yes, I want to show my pictures and a little positive feedback is always nice, but why do it, why get out of bed in the morning if not to do a little bit of good for someone else.
Ok, MJ, get out of my head with your "We are the World" jive.


  1. Beautiful shots Vicki and quite an interesting story - never heard of Kuna people before.

    Sounds like a great project - both humanitarian and photographically

    Safe trip home

  2. You are amazing Victoria! I love it!