Casco Life

Panama Art: Folk Art at Casco Viejo: Paluula´s Feathers

Panama, Casco Antiguo
Casco Viejo, San Felipe

Paluula’s Feathers Painting at Casco Viejo

Blog Contribution by Robert (Bob) Hardin
Pictures by Iranovy Grenald

He paints feathers.   Beautifully.   Delicately. 

    Arguably Casco Viejo’s most popular artist with tourists, Hercilo Tejada–whose Kuna Indian name is Paluuala (pronounced Paw-WAL-ah)–has another talent, too.

      He plays beautiful music on the tiny clay ocarinas on which he also paints Kuna designs.   His haunting rendition of La Vie en Rose has entranced countless visitors at the beginning of Avenida Central parking lot adjacent to the Government Building you will see a nice Plaza where Paluuala is working with beautiful crafts and paintings.      

       The amazing performance is his Pied Piper’s call to look at his display of feathers.   Most days tourists gather to watch his concentration as he paints feathers from the Darien Provence which he keeps in a small bag alongside his chair.   Few would guess that this artist master has been at it for only three years.

        Painting and music are Kuna talents, and Paluuala (“Spirit of the Living Tree”) learned from family members in the San Blas, though he now lives in a Kuna neighborhood near the Bridge of the Americas. 

        A feather from various Darien birds including ducks will take up to an hour to paint in oil, and depending on size, sell for $5 to $15, mounted and ready for framing.   “It took a lot of practice,” he recalls the learning curve.   He started with designs similar to those on molas, but found that”designs from nature were more popular.”

         The ocarinas are mostly meant to be displayed as curiosities back home, though he says anyone can learn to play as beautifully as he does.  It “takes a lot of practice” too.


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