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Mandela lives on in tattoo art

By Agence France-Presse in Johannesburg | China Daily | Updated: 2014-12-05 08:21

Mpumelelo Masinga takes a deep drag on his cigarette, his hand trembling with apprehension.

Masinga is preparing to spend three hours at the Black and White Tattoo Studio in Johannesburg getting Nelson Mandela's face tattooed on the center of his back.

"I'm very, very nervous," he explains with a sheepish smile. "It's a big piece and I'm starting on a new canvas, my back."

A year ago when Mandela died, Masinga decided he would pay tribute by getting a tattoo of the anti-apartheid hero.

"It's art and a memory that stays with me forever," said the sinewy 27-year-old. "One day I'll explain it to my kids."

As South Africa prepares to commemorate the first anniversary of the statesman's death on Friday, tattoo studios in the country are reporting an ever-growing demand for Mandela-inspired tattoos.

From Johannesburg to Cape Town, portraits of Mandela and famous quotes from the great man - most of them lifted from his best-selling autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom - are in demand.

"It's really becoming popular nowadays," said Chris De Villiers, a tattoo artist at The Body Architects Tattoo Studio in Cape Town.

"It's not something that just happened overnight, it slowly but surely got popular."

Nadia Smith, an assistant at Jaded Ink, another studio in Johannesburg, said the big fashion is for clients to request an "abstract, graffiti-style" tattoo of Mandela.

 Mandela lives on in tattoo art

Tattoo artists Tiplo Tsotetsi (left) and Dawid Smith work on tattoos representing Nelson Mandela on Mpumelelo Masinga, 27,(second from left) and Macel Bosthumus, 21, at the Black and White Tattoo studio in Johannesburg, South Africa. Gianluigi Guercia / Agence France-Presse

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