Creative Goodness

karavan9I’ve always loved design and designing.  Photography, writing, making jewelry, arranging a room – I love the creative process of putting things together.  Being in Panama, I am exposed to an endless amount of pattern, color, texture – the cultural and artistic products of Panama’s people and history.

Casco Viejo is a stop on every tourist’s map when they come through Panama City.  This, of course, is great for the economy but not always so great for the integrity of the cultural art being produced.  As Casco Viejo slowly gentrifies and as more condemned and deteriorated buildings are being restored, it is always exciting and interesting to see what new storefront may take its place.  All too often however, within one week, a little makeshift, pop-up store will open that is selling EXACTLY the same products as all the rest of them. I am left wandering from shop to shop sometimes just making price comparisons while wondering how in the world each of these shops manages to stay in business with so much local competition.

Since we moved here three years ago, there has always been one gallery in particular that stands above and beyond the rest.  It is unique, it is different, it is particular and so well-thought out.  Not only is this shop one that I always suggest to friends and family, but it is one that I sometimes just walk through with Joaquin, to take a peek and sometimes pick up a special gift for people back home (and myself if I just can’t resist).  Beyond the variety of pieces and the extreme attention to detail, this gallery has a fabulous ethical stance, which makes me love it all the more.

Karavan Gallery, is just one block from my house, on Calle 3 between Avenida A and Avenida Central.  It’s view mirrors my living room windows of El Arco Chato ruins.  Karavan Gallery was opened just over 5 years ago by a friend, Rosina Ynzenga, who moved to Panama from Spain.  Rosina moved here to Panama as a Photo Journalist with a killer eye for design, a deep respect for artistic tradition, and a business mind that seems to be led with a generous heart.  Not long after moving to Panama, Rosina saw a need to support the products that were being sold by so many indigenous groups. She identified the incredible beauty in their various techniques but not exactly in the authenticity of the final products themselves.  She began working with two Kuna women, creating and designing the traditional Mola pillows and learned that many traditions were being lost in the shuffle as tribes such as the Kuna, Embera, and Ngabe-Bugle were compromising their products by creating what they believed to be more desirable to the endless buses of tourists coming through the city.

Today, Rosina collaborates with over 180 women and 20 men, from various tribes, all of whom have different skills and artistic traditions. The range of products in her gallery is wide; colors and patterns explode and compete, yet somehow it all has a balance. Her name and gallery has been spread by word-of-mouth as a place to collaborate and sell traditional art and meanwhile, Rosina has become a positive influence on the autonomy of many tribes and their traditions.  Until very recently the workshop that acts as a hub for all of these artists, was actually Rosina’s home.  If you ever have the chance to visit Karavan Gallery, you’re likely to see 2-3 Kuna women gathered, sewing, and designing during shop hours.

Rosina (Karavan Gallery) started a foundation called Fundacion Mua Mua – a “cultural rescue” to help maintain the integrity of historic and artistic forms of expression within indigenous tribes in Panama.  At Fundacion Mua Mua, artistic traditions are shared, taught, learned and maintained.  The youth are not only learning and preserving tradition, but they are seeing first-hand that it can also be a business and a livelihood.

In a world that has become so industrialized and where things are manufactured and sold in bulk with hardly a trace of tradition, Karavan Gallery is my local slice of creative goodness.












  9 comments for “Creative Goodness

  1. June 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    thank you Rosina Ynzenga and your gallery for promoting ethnic art…without people like you this art will be lost…forever.

    and thank you “The Berry & The Fox” for sharing this!

    • Molly Berry
      June 4, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      I’m so happy that you enjoyed this post – I completely agree! I will pass on your thoughtful comment to Rosina, too:)

  2. June 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I’m LOVING these photos of the beautiful prints. Wow, I bet your house is gorgeous. There are so many option and ideas.

    Love you!

    • Molly Berry
      June 4, 2013 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks Juls – isn’t it all so beautiful? I definitely don’t have as much as I want in my house, I have to take it easy because the shop is just too close to me, but I could buy a ton. Especially because I know that these are pieces, handmade pieces of such amazing quality, that they will stand the test of time and will always be a unique touch to my home, wherever I live. Hey! Even you have one in your house:) That pillow I gave you is from Karavan! xx

  3. June 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Nice blog, Molly.

    I will be in Panama with my wife and 2 children (9 and 13 years old) during last 3 weeks of August to see if Panama makes a good new home for us. Any recommendations for where to visit?

    • Molly Berry
      June 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      Hello, great to hear from you! Very exciting that you are considering a move to Panama. I am more than happy to share some thoughts about places to visit – I’m even considering doing a post about it in the near future:)

      Until then, I would recommend the following adventuress (especially with a 9 and 13 year old):

      – You’ve got make Casco Viejo visit of course! While you’re here be sure to visit all the shops and plazas, make a stop for ice cream at Granclement, have dinner at a famous favorite restaurant Manolo Caracol, walk to the fish market, and enjoy an evening stroll along the Cinta Costera where they’ve just expanded a beautiful new park. Check to see if there are any events at the Teatro Nacional

      – Drive out to The Causeway and rent bikes, have lunch on the harbour, get a good view of the canal, visit the Artesenal Co-Op market for souvenirs.

      – Head up to Cerro Ancon for a beautiful bird’s eye of the city.

      – Visit the Miraflores Locks to get a true view of the canal.

      – Visit Gamboa Rainforest Resort and take a Monkey Island tour.

      – take a 2 hour drive to visit El Valle, visit the zoo, hike La India Dormida, check out the vegetable and artisan market, have lunch at La Casa de Lourdes.

      – Definitely arrange a visit out to the San Blas Islands, which can be a day trip, an overnight in basic cabanas, or best of all, hire a catamaran for two nights of paradise!

      – for other trips outside of the city, look into Pedasi on the Azuero Peninsula, Playa Venao, a quick flight to Bocas del Toro with maybe even a stay at La Loma chocolate farm if you want an extra special experience, a ferry ride to Isla Contadora for a night or two, fly or drive to Boquete.

      Here is a Casco based contact (Kevin) who can customize family trips for you and show you a great time! Speaks English and is an all around good guy with a ton of ideas and experience:

      Any idea what school you will have your children attend if you move?

      Best of luck and enjoy Panama!

      • Fayez Dajani
        June 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        Thank you so much for the recommendations, Molly, nice and concise.
        I read your response, then dove into the National Geograpic map of Panama (great map by the way), and this kept me busy for 1.5 hours. Vertual travel! Quite exciting. I still have a couple of spots I need to locate such as Padasi and Isla Contadora.
        I look forward to meeting indigenous people in Panama and seeing how they go about their daily lives. I am also quite intersted to see what arts and hand crafts they make, and probably buy some fine pieces, any suggestions on that? I prefer buying direct from the artists.
        Regarding schooling for the children, I hope to find a good international school (english based ed.) near where we choose to settle, this factor will be a key driver to our choice of place. I have some researching to do on this one.
        I see car rentals there for US$10-15 per day + insurance, pretty cheap. Do you recommend renting a car once we land in Panama City to tour Panama, or is it better to just take busses, taxis and planes?
        I just booked our fligt to Panama for August 8th!!

        • Molly Berry
          June 8, 2013 at 12:42 am

          I would recommend using taxis while you are staying in the city, and then once you are ready to venture out, then definitely rent a car. If you can spare to spend a little more on a rental car and pay for a 4×4 it is probably worth it as you’ll be here in the rainy season.
          I taught third grade for my first two years living here, at a wonderful, accredited American school called Balboa Academy in Ciudad del Saber – you should absolutely give it a look.
          Artisans will be all over the city, most of whom will be selling their own work, in large co-op settings. My last post, “Creative Goodness” is about the one shop in Casco that I think best exhibits local work and also supports it actively and fundamentally. Worth a look!

          • Fayez Dajani
            June 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

            Sounds good, renting a car makes a lot of sense because it allows us to stop where ever we like whenever we like as we traverse the country. Will check out your school recommendation also.

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