In September 2012 I received such a lovely gift from two friends, Lukasz and Ramyar. They had both been in Colombia at the same time and spent a day heading to the market and choosing from the many, many unique shoes, a pair of mola shoes as a gift for me. It was all the more miraculous because they are so beautiful and they fit me!!
For those who don't know, a mola is a wonderful art form. E-how.com describes it as, "Kuna tribeswomen living in Columbia and Panama use mola applique to create intricate textile designs that feature brightly color fabrics and bold geometric images. Mola applique is a form of reverse applique that incorporates three or more layers of fabric.
This is a small section of an astoundingly amazing mola," The Peoples of the World" (by Fumiko Nakayami), hanging in St. Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London, UK. The whole thing is 4 metres and 2 metres and contains 40 panels.
The molas can be very large to very small, as the shoes are. And every pair of shoes is unique. A number of people have thought that they are painted, but not so. Every colour is hand stitched.
Now the funny thing is that I was carrying them home in my suitcase and as I sat in the Frankfurt airport I looked over and saw a beautiful woman. As I glanced at her I was drawn to her feet because there was another pair of Colombian mola shoes. I had to go and talk to her. I said, "Are your shoes from Colombia?". She grabbed my arm and said excitedly "you know where they come from!!!". She told me that she was from Kenya and had known about the molas. So when a friend had visited the country she asked her to bring her back a pair. It was a very nice connection to make.
I thought that I had taken a photo of the rest of her body too, but it must not have turned out.
So my shoes are very comfortable and they have broken in very nicely (when I told my poor team mate that he looked at me in horror, "they are broken already?". I assured him that "broken-in" had totally different meaning and was actually a very good thing).
I am not taking them back to Iraqi Kurdistan because the dust of spring and summer will really dim the vibrant colours. But they will be waiting for me in Winnipeg- my new dancing shoes.