Mapuches Nativity

This nativity was created by Argentine artist Mario Mendoza. Mario was born in 1950 in San Salvador de Jujuy, the capital of the Jujuy province in the northwest of Argentina. At a very young age he started to create pottery, tutored by his older brother Oscar. He opened his own studio in 1978.

Mario specializes in very realistic miniature sculptures. His models are the indigenous people (Coyas, Onas, Tehuelches, Yamanas, Mapuches) of Northwestern Argentina. They are dressed in their typical garb. In this case the figures of the nativity are modeled after the Mapuche people wearing their traditional ponchos with their strong geometrical patterns. Both men and women wear a typical head band, though Mary’s headband is more decorative that that of Jesus, Joseph and the Magi.

Mario designed and molded each figure of this nativity. He collected the clay from the local mountains (Quebrada de Humahuca). He created 32 clay tones which he uses selectively for each figure.

The gifts the Magi brought the Christ Child are not the typical gold, myrrh and frankincense as mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. Rather, the Magi in this nativity are presenting the baby Jesus with gifts that are important in Mapuche society: Mais (corn) which is an important staple of their diet, as well as a typical Mapuche poncho and a blanket. Traditionally these items were used for trade and as a status symbol.

This is another wonderful example of inculturation of the mystery of the incarnation.

Name: Mapuches Nativity
Artist: Mario Mendoza
Country: Argentina
Material: Clay
Number of Pieces: 7
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, three Magi and sheep
Acquired: 2020

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