Mola: Cuna Life Stories and Art

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9780805038019: Mola: Cuna Life Stories and Art

My little girls,
You will grow up and marry
a grown boy.
You will grow up....
I will look for molas,
Molas for the little girls.
--Cuna Lullaby

The remarkable Cuna Indians live on the San Blas Islands off the northern coast of Panama. Cuna women hold much of the power enjoyed by men in other societies. They select their husbands, pass property on to their children, and make a unique form of art called molas that depict every detail of their lives.

The spectacular fabric designs in vibrant tropical colors that appear on the front and back panels of molas give us a window into Cuna life. We may see a day in school, mythical birds, the story of Noah, jungle animals, or a girl's coming-of-age.

Author Maricel Presilla learned how to read molas when she stayed with the Cuna. Mola is her tribute to the women she came to know and the amazing art they create.

An American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists"
One of Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

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About the Author:

Maricel E. Presilla journeyed to the San Blas Islands as part of her ongoing study of the foods and cultures of Latin America. After receiving her doctorate in medieval Spanish history, she wrote two books for young readers: Feliz Nochebuena, Feliz Navidad: Christmas Feasts of the Hispanic Caribbean, and with Gloria Soto, Life Around the Lake. A native of Cuba, she lives with her husband in Weehawken, New Jersey.

From Publishers Weekly:

As in her Life Around the Lake (coauthored with Gloria Soto), Presilla again examines a little-known culture by means of its textile arts. This time her subject is the Cuna Indians, who inhabit the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama, and the avenue for exploration is the mola, a vibrant cloth panel with embroidered and appliqued designs. Outsiders frame molas as art; Cuna women sew them into blouses. The author's language is often as vivid as the painstakingly stitched, densely hued fabric art; she notes that from the air the San Blas Islands "seem no bigger than jellyfish floating lazily in the shiny turquoise and cobalt blue waters of the Caribbean Sea." Cuna women create the molas; as the author explains in an endnote, the high prices these works fetch from outsiders buttresses the dominant role women have traditionally played in Cuna society. Aided by crisply detailed photographs of molas, Presilla paints a memorable portrait of "women who wear their lives." Ages 7-up. (Oct.) TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE: The Fight for Haiti's Freedom Walter Dean Myers, illus. by Jacob Lawrence. S&S, $16 ISBN 0-689-80126-2 As a young Harlem Renaissance artist, Lawrence's first success was a series of 41 narrative paintings chronicling the life of Haitian activist Toussaint L'Ouverture, who in 1791 led a rebellion against the French planters. Lawrence's stylized tempura art, painted predominantly in muted earth hues, is punctuated by luminous splashes of white and red. His striking compositions recreate the drama of how the self-taught Toussaint became the revolt's leader, organizing workers into "a mighty army of liberation" to abolish slavery on both the French and Spanish sides of the island. They also convey Toussaint's despair in prison, where he died before Haiti's liberation in 1804. The battle scenes are a dynamic clatter of spiky, angular shapes and flying hooves; more quiet panels depict Toussaint studiously drafting battle plans and ships ominously arriving from France. Though Myers (Brown Angels) makes some broad leaps that may puzzle kids, he skillfully presents Toussaint's life story in succinct episodes that correspond to the paintings. His clean, effective text supports Lawrence's more complex and powerful paintings, both urbane and elemental in style. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) FYI: The artist whose paintings illustrate this book is himself the subject of a picture book (reviewed below).
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Presilla, Maricel E.
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