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In an African Manger


So much of the way we celebrate Christmas here in South Africa is wrapped around the idea of how it happens overseas: the artificial snow, the eggnog, the wintery decorative motifs. So the wooden nativity scene from Elsje Designs, a boutique decor and graphic design studio in Stellenbosch, is a breath of fresh air. The intricate six-piece silhouette-style set has been given a proudly African touch with a number of local references that warm the patriotic heart. It’s still a classic nativity scene in the sense that it depicts the birth of baby Jesus, and Mary, Joseph, the three wise men and the shepherds with their sheep are all present and accounted for. But the difference lies in the other creatures that are in attendance. Against a backdrop of camel thorn trees and aloes there’s a curious kudu, an attentive sable antelope, a few lively meerkats, an ostrich or two and a duo of riverine rabbits (the latter are found only in specific regions of the Karoo and are one of the rarest mammals in the world). There’s also a spotted eagle owl sitting on the roof of the barn and the three wise men bring their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on the backs of giraffes. Once assembled on its flat wooden stand, the scene makes for a striking proudly local table or mantle piece. It’s made from sustainable beech wood and is, according to its makers, a very sturdy piece of design, so you can look forward to celebrating an African Christmas for many years to come. The nativity scene can be ordered from for R380.