Category Archives: Africa

Jaracanda Wood Nativity

This set of six figures, including Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child and three Magi were carved in Jaracanda wood by Artisans working with Mujibha Exports of Zimbabwe. Jaracanda wood is a fast-growing sustainable type of wood can is easy to carve.

Mujibha Exports was created by Robert Barclay Steward and his mother Anthea Doreen Steward in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The Stewards founded this company to provide a living to local artists and to introduce the world to the artistic heritage of Zimbabwe

Adoration of the Magi Icon

This brilliant Coptic Icon of the Magi offering their gifts to the Christ Child shows Mary and the baby Jesus at the center. Mary is wrapping Jesus in a blanket. Mary and Jesus have no eyes but for one another. Joseph is situated behind him and curiously eyes the Magi who are bowing before the Christ Child. This Adoration of the Magi is painted on animal hide. The image measures 15 3/4 inches wide 11 3/4 inches high.

Maasai Nativity

This Nativity is carved from ebony wood by Joseph Kisilu. The set is painted by Steven Kyalo. They work in an artisan workshop run by Steven Kyalo in Gikomba, a poor area near the city center of Nairobi, capitol of Kenya. 

Both Joseph and Mary are bald because, according to the Maasai culture, when a baby is born the father and the mother shave their head as a symbol that they have conquered or have been relieved of a heavy burden. Mary wears a beautiful necklace and carries a gourd filled with milk to feed the baby Jesus. Joseph carries a spear and shield as a symbol of his duty to protect his sacred family. The angel is represented by a Maasai messenger who has praying hands. The two shepherds with red hair, each carrying a spear and shield, are Maasai warriors who protect the village and herds from predators. The three wise men are Maasai seers; they wear headdresses and carry a spear and club. The giraffe, leopard, and zebra signify that the Maasai live with these animals in Kenya and Tanzania . The Joseph figure measures 5.5 inches tall (excluding his spear).

Tuareg Nativity

This Aïr stone nativity comprises 11 semi-abstract and stylized figures. They include Mary, Joseph, Jesus, three magi, a zebu, buffalo, sheep and donkey. The nativity is handcrafted by Tuareg craftsmen using a typical Tuareg technique. The Aïr stone is extracted from the Aïr massif near Agadez in northern Niger. This stone is very close to soapstone. First, the stone is heated and proven with coal fire to give it its unique brown-black color. Then the stone is manually engraved to bring out the white furrows. The height varies between 3-6 inches.

Eva’s Lappa Nativity

This lappa or colorful cloth Nativity is made by Eva Paye in Monrovia, capital of Liberia. The set includes 10 figures: Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, an angel dressed in white, a shepherd with staff, two sheep, and three wise men with gifts. Each wise man has a cowrie shell on his headdress. The artisan’s attention to detail and the careful stitching are impressive. St. Joseph and Mary are dressed in the same fabric for unity.

Eva survived the Second Liberian Civil War by hiding in The Bush during the fighting. Eva lost her husband in the war and now cares for her children alone. She has developed her own original craft designs to support her family. Eva sews her Nativity figures using the local colorful cloth known as lappa in Liberia.

“Jesus and the African Kings” Nativity

Thomas Kumah Nedjoh carved this uniquely African nativity scene from Ofram wood. Sitting in front of a hut, accompanied by shepherds and farm animals, the Holy Family receives the three Magi, represented as kings. The first king bears a stool throne as symbol of Jesus’ majesty, the second king proffers a gourd filled with gold, and the third king brings a state sword for oath-swearing. The man bearing a staff with a star is the spokesperson for the kings. Nedjoh carve each piece by hand with sublime detail to create a moving and endearing scene. The tallest piece is 9.5″ H x 5″ W x 3.5″ D. The smallest is 1.6″ H x 2.8″ W x 1.6″ D.

“Welcome Jesus” Nativity

This highly expressive nativity was carve in sustainable oniya wood by Francis Agbete. Flanked by a sheep, a lamb and a donkey, Baby Jesus is welcomed into this Ghanaian village. Mary kneels next to Jesus, with an angel standing above him. Joseph and a shepherd, both holding a staff protectively guard him. The Magi approach the Holy Family bearing their gifts. And a drumming animates the scene. The tallest piece is 3.5″ H x 1.6″ W x 0.8″ D. The smallest piece is 1.2″ H x 1.2″ W x 0.4″ D.

Francis Agbete was born December 28, 1976 in a family of traditional wood carvers in a suburb of Accra, the capital of Ghana. He learned the trade from his father whom he assisted in his workshop. While still in school he started his own workshop together with his sister and a cousin. Today they operate a workshop where his father’s work is exhibited as well.

Small Clay Nativity

This native Cameroon village is made of clay by artisan Alphonse Yenji (pronounced Yen-i). The clay is shaped, fired in a kiln, cooled, and then dipped into a dye from boiled eucalyptus tree bark to make the bronze patina.

The 10 pieces include: Mary, Joseph, Jesus in a manger, three wise men, two camels, one shepherd, and one sheep. The tallest figures are 8 inches high.

Alphonse Yenji is sponsored by the Presbyterian Handicraft Centre, known as Prescraft, a nonprofit organization that supports local craftspeople. Prescraft provides employment for close to 800 artisans, 40 percent of whom are women.

Christmas in Africa

This Christmas in Africa Nativity is set in an African village. Mary and Joseph are gathered around Jesus in the shade of a hut and a palm tree. The Angel looks on prayerfully. A shepherd and his sheep approach the Holy Family and the Magi bring their gifts. In addition, the animal kingdom is also present. They comprise the African big five, lion, leopard, Rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo as well as a crocodile, giraffe, hippo, and zebra.

This nativity is made out of Muwanga wood and is finished with wood wax. The hut stands at a height of 9 inches and it can be dismantled. The tree is 10 inches, the giraffe is 7 inches and Joseph is 5.5 inches. The other figures are less than 4 inches tall.

The Magi

This African Christmas carving by Van Nyasulu is made out of Muwanga wood which is known for its beautiful grains. The piece shows African people of different tribes bringing various gifts to the Holy family. Everything is carved by hand and polished to bring out its natural shine.

Van Nyasulu is from Nkhata-Bay, Malawi. He learned wood carving from his father, a renowned carver in Malawi from the seventies through the early nineties. He taught Van from the age of 6 until 14 when he passed away. Since then Van has developed his own style and made wood carving his full time job.