Nativities make a scene this Christmas

December 1, 2021 BY

Traditional, unique, quirky: Fiona Tonkin and Kay Paton set up their combined collection of international nativity scenes for the public to view. Photos: EDWINA WILLIAMS

BETWEEN five and six hundred nativities from every continent of the world are set to be displayed in the Bridge Mall from this weekend.

Passionate nativity scene collectors Fiona Tonkin, Kay Paton and Andrew Hayes have combined their traditional, unique, and quirky pieces which depict the birth of Jesus, from more than 60 countries, for a free exhibition in the former Vinnies shopfront, store 60.

“Some Nativities are artistically beautiful, some are challenging, some invite you to ask questions, some tell different parts of the Christmas story, and some have their own fascinating story to tell,” Ms Tonkin said.

“There are nativities made of bone, bread, wood, car parts, glass, bullets and paper. There is even one made of potato chip packets.

“Many are hand-crafted, and many answer the question, if this event happened in my time and place what would it look like?”

Titled, Making a Scene at Christmas, the showcase includes pieces from Mongolia, Nagasaki, Barcelona, Bulgaria and more.

There’s a 100-year-old baby Jesus doll from Malta, a mosaic sculpture, a sheep ornament made of a Liberian civil war bullet, a detailed nativity scene the size of half a thumb, and even gingerbread from Warsaw.

From upcycled car parts to felting, there’s nativities within Making a Scene at Christmas made from all artistic mediums imaginable.

“Our personal highlights include a pregnant Mary, hand painted by widows of the drug violence in Columbia, one handmade by a refugee Muslim woman in Palestine, and the fearsome large Herod that came off a carousel in New York State.

“There are interesting artefacts that date back 2000 years to the time of the Birth of Jesus; coins from the time and place that Jesus was born, a coin that shows the star event that was evident at the time of the birth, and a hand-made oil lamp from Israel,” Ms Tonkin said.

Regardless of whether visitors are religious or not, she said there’s something for every person to enjoy, from the art and history layer to the “internationality and culture,” to kids’ nativity toys and a hunt around the room.

Over the last 10 years, the presentation has travelled across western Victoria, to Melbourne, Canberra, and schools.

“The powerful question of, ‘what would the Nativity look like if it happened in your time and town?’ has provoked some amazing learning and responses,” Ms Tonkin said.

“Our favourite had the nativity being on the sixth floor of a high-rise in Flemington, with the shepherds being replaced by the homeless, and the wise men being replaced by the doctors and nurses from the big hospitals.”

Making a Scene at Christmas is open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, 4 and Sunday, 5 December, and from Saturday, 11 December until Christmas Eve. Gold coin donations are welcome to cover costs.