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Kuna Artifacts

Kuna art extends beyond the mola. Whether used in daily or ceremonial life, whether used as decoration and adornment or in building, storage, music-making, play, prayer and locomotion, the artifacts of Kuna weaving, carving, painting and beading give sense to the expression "the art of being Kuna".

"Nuchugana" or "Nuchu" (Spirit Dolls)



"Nuchus" are small wooden dolls whose quality depends on the skill of the carver. Some are quite elaborate and some are not more than, simply, a small stick.

Once a doll is carved, it is taken to the "curendero", the medicine doctor, who puts a soul into the nuchu. This spirit is always good -- healing, warding of evil and never harmful to others -- and takes care of its owner. A nuchu with a live spirit in it can never be sold.

door nuchus

door nuchus

When someone falls ill, his nuchus are placed around his hammock by his family. The nuchus guard against evil spirits penetrating the sick person and hindering his recovery and, so, help to cure him. Once a nuchu has been used for such a purpose, it can be discarded or sold but most Kunas will keep them for many years after the cure and store them together in a basket.

The last two images here are of door nuchus. The Kunas place these at the door of their hut to keep evil spirits away.



Cermonial Items

ceremonial artifacts

All of the artifacts shown in this image are used for ceremonial purposes.

The bone necklace -- made of pelican bones -- is worn during the celebration of a girl becoming a woman. The maracas, pan flute are for music. The small gourds are chicha cups, where "chicha" is a fermented drink made for passing around in celebrations. And, the little boat is not a toy. It is a "death boat". The Kunas place a small amount of rice and fish in the boat and then place the boat on the dead before they are buried. It is for their journey to the afterlife.





Authority Staffs

authority staffs authority staffs

These staffs are indeed authority staffs in that they represent the power or position -- Chief, trader, farmer, etc. -- the person carrying them has on the island.

Cooking Tools

cooking utensils cooking utensils cooking utensils

Painted Gourds

painted gourds




jewelry jewelry jewelry

Mask patches

mask patches

p.s. You might want to check out the Museo de la Nación Kuna for more information (in Spanish) and images (universal :o).

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