Distinctive nativity scenes and traditions have been created around the world, and are displayed in Christmas Cribs during the Christmas season in churches, homes, shopping malls and other venues, and occasionally on public lands and in public buildings. All of them are populated with well-crafted statuettes of the Child Jesus, his parents, the shepherds and their animal herds. Canute Pinto, spoke to the only person who makes them for Mangalureans.
A nativity scene also known as a manger scene, the crib is the special exhibition, particularly during the Christmas Season, of art objects representing the birth of Jesus. While the term "nativity scene" may be used for any representation of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. It has a more specialized sense referring to seasonal displays, either using model figures in a setting or re-enactments called "living nativity scenes" in which real humans and animals participate. Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the Infant Jesus, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph.
Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223 in order to cultivate the worship of Christ. He himself had been inspired by his visit to the Holy Land, where he'd been shown Jesus's traditional birthplace. The scene's popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes.
Here in Mangaluru, which is home to a considerable number of Christians of different denominations, different groups have kept up this tradition of creating this Christmas Crib both indoor and outdoor, big and small, theme-based and creative through the centuries be it Churches or individual homes.
Interestingly, all the statues gracing the Christmas Cribs of Mangaluru have, for more than half a century, mostly come from one main retailer that is Jerosa Company at Milagres junction. But the remarkable part is that currently there is only one person who shapes these Christmas statues in and around Mangaluru and he is Dolphy Theophilus a resident of Jeppu Seminary View.
Dolphy used to work as an assistant at the famous St. Joseph's Workshop which used to create these statues in the 80's. When St. Joseph's Workshop gave up this work due to the shortage of manpower, Dolphy now an expert in this job continued to do this work at his own house with the help of his wife and son. Since then no turning back, each and every day his orders are increasing and there are times when he has had to reject the orders owing to shortage of time.
"Even though the present generation is tech-savvy, the no of orders for Christmas statues is increasing day by day which shows that the people are still interested in these kinds of activities. I do want to expand this work to cater to all my enquiries but finding manpower is the major issue" Dolphy says.
The whole process of creating a statue either small, or a large one exceeding 3 feet, it involves one month of hard work and dedication. First, the image is created using clay and then POP is applied and the image is kept for drying for a week. In case of small statues, a readymade die is used to get different shapes of animals and humans. Once it is dried, it is pulled out of the die and a proper finishing is done using scraper paper. Then oil paint is applied to it to give it a classy look. In case of big statues, they create the shapes with clay and then join them with each other to make it a full statue.
"The big statues are mostly supplied to churches and institutions and most of the churches in and around Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Kasaragod have statues shaped by me," says Dolphy proudly.
May this Christmas be a joyful one for all with Dolphy’s statues gracing your Cribs.