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South African wonder artist: Percy Maimela

Percy Maimela is one of South Africa’s talented artists making waves. The 32 year-old artist whose portrait of Joe Mafela, which he created with salt went viral. A man of many talents, Maimela also reproduced the first coloured picture of the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, Hector Pieterson.



In South Africa, Flex Percy Maimela doesn’t only use salt for food but for art, and his art work is exquisite. It all started in 2014, when he was in a shop, bored and with some few minutes to closing time when he found a damaged bag of salt that had spilled. He decided to be creative with the salt and began salt art.

Maimela had a keen interest in art when he was young. The interest grew with age and he engaged in painting, pencil and pen drawings and paper mache.  With no formal art qualification, Maimela took a huge risk, quitting his retail job last year to focus on his craft.

When This is Africa asked him what made him leave his job, he said “I always knew I would leave. The decision just came eventually.”

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Completed portrait using salt. Photo: Facebook/ Percy Maimela

The artist says it’s been a bit of struggle financially with a bit of light shining through, but he believes it’s a process worth going through. Maimela considers himself an artist, not wanting any specific prefix to describe his art. He says, “materials can change at any time.” He uses various mediums to express his art. Besides using salt, he said he can make use of any powdered material.

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In a beautiful tribute to Joe Mafela, Maimela created a salt portrait of the veteran actor. The portrait garnered a lot of attention among South Africans. When TIA asked Maimela what Mafela meant to him, he said “he was a legendary man. Imagine your hometown having a few households with TVs and people always gathering on those hot spots. Now imagine what kind of memories one will have from such events. That is why shows like ‘it is good it is nice’ are so memorable.”


A portrait of Mandela using ashes on sand. Photo: Percy Maimela

The artist whose salt portraits have caused quite a stir hasn’t garnered the kind of recognition he deserves. The 32 year-old works an average of five hours a day. Maimela’s pencil portraits and other artistic works are equally impressive.

The 1976 picture of the Soweto Uprising taken by photographer Sam Nzima was in black and white. Maimela produced the first ever coloured picture of that iconic image of Hector Pieterson.

First coloured picture of Hector Pieterson by Percy Maimela Photo: Facebook/Percy Maimela

Maimela’s artistic talents are evident, and he is getting the recognition he deserves. We  wish him great success in his career.

Percy Maimela’s pencil on paper portrait Photo: Facebook/Percy Maimela