Indian nativity sets tend to be small, painted in bright colors looking like children’s toys. Stamp nativities, painted tin or made of Palewa stone, they frequently seem to cater top trite and callow taste. Not so these metal cut out figures. The iron is not treated. The characters are left in their natural state. Rust and imperfection are part of the uniqueness of each piece. Crafter in family workshops of artisan cooperatives these 3-D figures travel incognito keeping to themselves the secret of their origin. Sharply defined silhouettes, they convey an eerie sense of déjà vu in Egyptian or Assyrian art. The expression is one of utter resolve. The jutted chins and pointed beards of the three kings indicate eager anticipation and hurried movement. But take a look at the position of the arms of all the actors surrounding the manger. They are all stretched out imposing a forward movement to the whole body. Silhouettes, maybe, and guarded anonymously, but they both serve the real meaning of this set which is to bring gifts to the manger, maybe even the gift of self.
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