The first Presepio with clay figures were brought by the missionaries. It was not easy to convince the natives that the new God became a little white baby, but at the time there was no local iconography to present the new religion in a way that Africans could understand. Only later when the newly made Christians began to produce works of art, were the missionaries able to show the natives how to build their own African Nativity Scenes, often carved in precious ivory or wood, with Three Kings dressed like local chiefs in ornate costumes adorned with hundreds of multicolored beads.
In the Far East, where missionaries created Christian oases, the Presepio flourished. Although he never became a Christian, the Ruler of the Indies Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) showed remarkable appreciation for the Presepio and freely allowed the tradition to spread throughout his vast empire.