Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Dulemola (Blouse Panel) with Mares and Foals

L2014_016_006_B_SCR 2.jpg


Dulemola (Blouse Panel) with Mares and Foals


This dulemola depicts six big and four little horses. Along the centerline are a flower (below) and a clover (above), plants that horses eat. Horses do love clover, though it is not native to the Guna’s tropical environment; however, neither are horses. Horses were introduced by the Spanish to the Americas in the 16th century. Furthermore, Guna do not keep horses on their coastal and island homes, so this is certainly not indigenous subject matter. Horses changed the indigenous American cultures dramatically, from the Plains of what is now the United States to the pampas of Argentina. They can be a shorthand for “Europeans,” though they were embraced and became considered a “traditional” element in their own right.

However, the interpretation of these horses has much in common with older and more local dulemolaguna: the figures of the mares and foals are not strongly differentiated from the background. Both are made up of the same two colors and the same types of jagged cut-out lines. Thus, the boundaries of the horses are not very perceptually strong; they meld in with their surroundings. This is an intentional Guna predilection. It highlights artistic prowess—it is very difficult to cut such thin strips of the top cloth into lines—and communicates a deeper concept, the overall unity of nature, a fundamental Native American conviction.

Geographic Area

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




20th century



Credit Line

Lent by Gail and Clark Goodwin

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

Exhibition Checklist