: Handicrafts of the San Blas Islands, Panama

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I am fascinated by the way people around the world express themselves through fashion and costume.  From the  traditional bodypaint and tattoos of Amazonians, to the intricate beading and textiles of the Kuna Yala women pictured, through photography I have been blessed with the opportunities to meet incredible people and learn about amazing cultures.

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The Kuna women who live in the San Blas islands of Panama adorn themselves with handmade, intricately beaded jewellery.  Geometric designs are common and no two patterns are the same, as each is made on the body to fit the exact size and shape of the leg or arm on which will be worn.

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I was stunned by the pure beauty of the the blouses worn by the Kuna women, which are centred around a hand embroidered, unique design.  These designs, as well as the beading worn on arms and legs, imitate patterns which were painted on the bare body, until missionaries arrived and convinced the Kuna people that they should be wearing clothes.

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A trickling of travellers visit the San Blas islands, allowing the women the opportunity to sell their embroidered textiles.  The most common visitors are young travellers crossing the Darien Gap by sail boat, between Colombia and Panama (I was one of these).

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Until I visited the San Blas Islands, I never knew that such picturesque islands could exist.  The region is scattered with hundreds of islands and atolls, some inhabited (with transient families living in simple palm thatch huts) and others simply home to a single perfect palm tree, swimming in perfect aqua waters.

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The Kuna people appreciate the beauty of their region and live simply, at one with nature, while also enhancing it, making it even more stunning with their colourful handmade clothing and jewellery.

This blog is written by our friend, Alicia Fox - photographer, eco-warrior & adventurer. Visit her website: Alicia Fox Photography