Creches from Ecuador

Sleeping Mary
Michael Ayala
Ecuador

Mixing African and Indio ingredients, this set by a well-known Ecuadorian artist, is first of all a tribute to life. It is a hymn to life in some of its most basic expressions: blooming and overflowing bodies, satiated peace on sleeping faces and the fundamental trust in life’s goodness that is given only to children. We find in this nativity some of the characteristics of North American representations, namely the innocent childlikeness and a new appreciation of gender roles. Mary sleeps while Joseph watches over the baby. God has ventured to penetrate all layers of human reality. The sleeping Mary says it all.

ML.1113.02

 

 

A Humble Praise
Johnny Coveña
Ecuador

This is a Tagua crèche, made of the seed of Tagua palm trees. Tagua is also called “vegetal ivory.” This nativity features mostly animals living in Ecuador and the Galapagos. The tableau is brimming over with the life of creation gathering a great many of its representatives: animals of the deep blue, inhabitants of the earth, and creatures of the air. Jesus has come to gather the whole of creation. Lord of creation, he remains inconspicuous amid his creatures. Why? Incarnation is an act of humility on the part of God hailed with the humble praise of his little creatures.

ML.1113.03

 

 

Ox and Ass in Waiting
Eduardo Borja Cruz
Ecuador

The tableau betrays an unusual degree of activity. The many exquisitely crafted paper-cut figures are busily tending to the many needs of human life. In contrast, the faces are like wooden masks, impassive and impenetrable, their movements those of puppets on a string. Joseph and Mary, on their way to Bethlehem, are passing through this human mass, unnoticed. Dressed like mourners, their passage makes no waves. It will not stop the mindless bustle. But at the end of the road two animals lie in waiting. Ox and ass are lying in waiting knowing their master. They understood what was to come, whereas the people of God did not understand (Isaiah 1, 3). This is how ox and ass became the most faithful companions of the Christ Child.

ML.1115.08

 
 

O Lord, you search me...
Myra Vargas
Ecuador

This nativity representation comes from one of the most remote regions of our globe, the rain forests of the Amazon. Lifting the curtain of dense foliage, which hides a kaleidoscope of luxuriant color and primeval sounds, we discover in a sea of birds and beasts the main actors of the feast of life: a few – in appearance – clumsy and awkwardly heavy figures. But there is a pristine beauty in their raptured faces and painted limbs. Their burnished bodies are like rare jewels glowing in the dark green night of the jungle. One is reminded of Psalm 139: "If I say: Let the darkness hide me and the light around me be night, even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as clear as the day." And looking at the orchid-shaped eye of the Creator's loving presence, bits and pieces of this other canticle come to mind: "Seas and rivers... all water creatures... all you birds of the air... all you beasts wild and tame, bless the Lord. You sons of men, bless the Lord" (Daniel 3, 57f).

ML.1124.06

 
 

Flying Camels
Estella Bedoya de Arias
Ecuador

Well, not all three camels are flying. But the one who does, high perched above the others, seems to thoroughly enjoy it. The sumptuous robes of the master and magus lend wings to his endeavor. Using his artfully twisted head and neck as rudder, he seeks out the winds of providence which will take both camel and rider to safe port. Speaking about safe port, have a look at him who is our port of salvation. Doesn't he look cute on his bed of pink flowers, legs elegantly crossed and arms extended in a noble gesture of universal invitation? For once, the adjective cute seems to apply, not only to the representation of the Christ child but to the whole set. All these figures are pretty, dainty and sweet. There is more, however. These personages exude an aura of seasoned wisdom and saintly shrewdness, so much that even the sheep seem to know what this commotion is all about. At first glance, baby Jesus and his whole company may look like the highly elaborate sugar-coating on an expensive wedding cake. A closer look reveals that these figures of hardened bread dough, intricately decorated and robed with glistening veneer, play a role not unlike Egyptian art. All flat and frontal, they have no life of their own. Their whole purpose is to show and tell the story.

ML.1124.03

 
 

Masks
Eduardo Borja Cruz
Ecuador

There is something forbidding about this scene. The many bright colors and angular movements of the exquisitely crafted-paper cut figures betray – at first glance – an unusual degree of activity, an almost joyful busyness in tending to the many needs of Mother Earth. But look at their heads with their immobile faces and flat hat tops. They all look alike: faces that are no real faces but wooden masks as impassive and impenetrable as their hats are dull and without flourish. All at once we realize that these are marionettes, puppets on a string, obeying orders given by an invisible puppeteer. Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem for the great event will not be able to avoid this "Brave New World." Dressed like mourners they know only too well that their passage will make no waves; it will not stop the mechanisms of mindless bustle – or will it? There is one sign of sure hope. At the other end of the grueling scene two animals, ox and donkey, lie in waiting. Faithful companions of the Christ child from the beginning of Christmas lore on, they will provide attention and warmth that humans are not always ready to give.

ML.

 
 

Earth People
Michael Ayala
Ecuador

Michael Ayala's nativity has ethnic characteristics.  His figures represent the different native groups of Ecuador: the Natabuelas, Jaraguros, Otavalos, and more. The squatting personages with abundant bodies and round faces convey a subliminal message.  They are earth people, close to where life begins. They speak the language of children.

ML.2512

 

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