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We carve our dreams into the wood...

The Big Makonde Manger

This is an old saying of the Makonde, a famous Bantu people of wood carvers living in the Southeast of Tanzania on a still rather inaccessible plateau.

The traditional Makonde woodcarving wants to interpret life and give it a meaning; it picks up scenes from daily life. Through Christianisation biblical scenes were absorbed into the repertoire.

The nativity scene in the Missionsmuseum is carved from one single piece of wood; the carver chose an old huge ebony tree trunk (mpingo) for his work.

The tree had been growing for a lifetime - after seven years a newly planted ebony seedling shows only a thin black core as thick as a pencil in the blond sapwood.

And only this very hard black heartwood is used for carving and is tackled with primitive tools like picks, axes, knifes and stones.

The woodcarver does not present the Holy Family as single figurines but has carved them out of the trunk in an assembly similar to the ancient clan trees.

Joseph and Maria bend over the Child and spread their hands protectively around him as he is standing erect in the manger - depicted as an adult Saviour and Redeemer as we find it in gothic pictures.

On the manger's left side a man is sitting, on the right side a shepherd with his buffalo, both bring presents.

From above an angel descends spreading his hands protectively, and the Star of Bethlehem shines...

May a star shine above your house not only in the Christmas time but also in the coming year.

The Museum team and the monastic community of St. Ottilien wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!