Nativity scenes take on a number of appearances, from wooden figurines to plastic light-up props found in the front yards of houses, they come in all shapes and sizes. Just in time for Christmas, Banksy offered up his own rendition of Jesus’ birth. Titled Scar of Bethlehem, Banksy’s version is quite unlike most nativity scenes you’ll see today.
In Scar of Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph look down at the baby Jesus, as the story goes, flanked by a donkey and cow. The subdued colours of their robes are juxtaposed against a grey cement wall that makes up the backdrop. There, you find the most usual and poignant portion of the scene: the Star of Bethlehem appears to be made from a bullet hole. Faded graffiti tags reading ‘love’ and ‘paix,’ French for peace, adorn the base of the walls.
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The work was unveiled just a few days before Christmas at the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. Opened just two years ago, the hotel, which Banksy contributed to, sits just across the street from a portion of the controversial wall that separates Israelis and Palestinians. Banksy’s touch is easily found in the hotel – his work hangs in various parts of the hotel and one room, known as ‘Banksy’s Room,’ features a painting hung over the bed of an Israeli and a Palestinian having a pillow fight.
As is usual with Banksy’s works, Scar of Bethlehem is packed with meaning. ‘It is a great way to bring up the story of Bethlehem, the Christmas story, in a different way,’ says Wissam Salsaa, manager of the hotel, in The Guardian. The work will ‘make people think more,’ he continues. The wall was begun nearly 20 years ago in 2002 when violence hit a fever pitch. Mostly in the West Bank, the wall was built by Israelis. The barrier, large walls in some places and fences in others, was erected for protection, according to Israelis in favour of the wall, during the Palestinian uprising, but those in opposition, particularly Palestinians, believe the barrier keeps them away Jerusalem. ‘Banksy is trying to be a voice for those that cannot speak,’ Salsaa says of the new work, though, ‘creating a new model of resistance through art.’
Now, the hotel, which has been said to have ‘the worst view in the world,’ has a new item for visitors to mull over. Banksy posted the new artwork to his Instagram account on December 21st, calling it ‘a modified nativity set.’ The work has received mixed reviews from those who find Scar of Bethlehem to be a clever take on the traditional scene and those who disagree with it for various reasons. Then again, would it be a Banksy without a little controversy?
However you see it, with the nativity, says Salsaa, ‘Banksy has his own contribution to Christmas.’