presepi in terra santa

To make cribs in the land of Jesus

Giacomo Pizzi11 December 2017

Following a proposal made many years ago by the great Franciscan archaeologist, Fr. Michele Piccirillo, today Maurizio Enrico Villa has decided to export the art of the crib from Italy to the Holy Land.

In 2016 Maurizio had already made a crib for the Christian community of Madaba, Jordan, but this time he accepted a greater challenge: teaching young people at the Nisf Jubeil Ceramic Center how to recreate a nativity scene. Thanks to an initiative by the Mosaic Center Jericho and the Association pro Terra Sancta, the artist spent a few days in the small village of Samaria, to teach his art to 2 boys and 5 girls, all Muslims.

When we asked him “how do you make a crib?”, Maurizio answered: “When I think of the historical crib, I like to stick to customs of Palestine two thousand years ago, adding something that from my experience. So I also asked these guys to customize their nativity scene, respecting the Palestinian architectural context“.

presepi samaria

Lama, one of the girls who models beautiful dishes and ceramic objects every day in the centre, told us: “It has been a very interesting experience, even if it was a bit difficult to work with many materials that we are not used to”. Once the extruded polystyrene structures and green building adhesives were made, the students moved on to a more complex phase: coloring of the structures.

“It was great when we asked what colors to use for the houses and Maurizio told us: ‘go out and be inspired by the colors of your own houses!'” Lama stated, smiling. “At that time we felt like we were building our houses, and for us here in Palestine, the house is something very important”. presepi nisf jubeil

Ruwaida, another of the girls in the center, believes in art as an energy that helps express one’s identity. “These soft walls we built are not walls of division, but they allowed us to grow the knowledge of the other“, she explains. “And then we as Muslims, also believe that Issa (Jesus) was a great prophet”.

Maurizio now is back in Italy and is already working with new cribs.  He is very happy about this experience. He tells us: “For me, making the Crib is an act of faith that is done with the heart rather than with the hands“. And for all this experience was not only a moment of artistic training, but above all a moment of confrontation and knowledge, a laboratory of education for dialogue and hope. “Building those nativity scenes with them – Maurizio concludes – I felt that same mystery and that new hope that was realized in the cave of Bethlehem 2000 years ago“.