Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Dulemola (Blouse Panel) with Multi-Headed Snake



Dulemola (Blouse Panel) with Multi-Headed Snake


The fantastical multi-headed snakes take their place among the many subjects of Guna dulemolaguna that relate to Nature, but not in direct imitation. The undulating and interlocking lines of orange and red create a sense of snake bodies without explicitly delineating individual ones. All available space teems with additional serpentine shapes and curls cut into the maroon top cloth to reveal the layers below in typical dulemola fashion.

However, a newer innovation is the embroidery embellishing the heads, concentric lines of stitches echoing the circular black-and-white eyes. Embroidery is quick, relative to the arduous work of cutting and stitching the design, and it adds another surface layer. Thus, embroidery is not an intrusive element, but rather follows the already established tendencies creatively invented and explored by Guna women artists.

Furthermore, multi-headed animals are a staple of shamanic art. Snakes in particular figure prominently in visionary experience and those with two or more heads have been called Vision Serpents, often appearing in the ancient art of Central and Mesoamerica. Shamans go into trance and witness wise and terrifying animals such as snakes, that give them advice on how to cure their patients. Thus, this dulemola delves deeper into the spiritual worlds in which most Guna still wholeheartedly believe.

Geographic Area

Central America, Guna Yala (San Blas Islands/North Coast of Panamá)




20th century



Credit Line

Lent by Sherry Thorup

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

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