The Early Pioneer Artists of South Africa

George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba ( 1912 - 2001 )

11 March 2001  by Andries Loots
Pemba was a passionate man who lived for art and his fellow men. When he started his long struggle in 1931 to become an artist,  it was against all odds as it was unlikely that any black person could become a full time artist  and yet it is here that he achieved his fame. In 1944 he made a statement, "I do not know if ever I will become a great artist........ ?"

Pemba however believed in himself and although nearly too late, it shows now in the prices people are prepared to pay for his work, now in high demand. He is now regarded as one of South Africa's greatest pioneering artists.

His work is rich in colour,  balance,  perspective and there is always a harmonious arrangement of these elements. His work reflects his honesty,  integrity and sincerity.

He was not only a painter and illustrator of various books locally and internationally  but also wrote two plays of which the most famous " Nonquase ",  was based on a H.E. Dhlomo's play of a girl who had to  kill to save her nation. He did a series of paintings to illustrate this story a few years after the play was completed.

Pemba's main source of inspiration comes from the people from both the rural and the township areas that he captures in his paintings.

He lived in Motherwell outside Port Elizabeth confined to a wheelchair and  at last enjoyed the admiration that the people now show for his work. 

Nonquase,  ( 1985 )
Oil on board 
Private Collection,  Cape Town
Haircut, ( 1990 )
Oil on board 
Private Collection,  Cape Town

Exhibitions :
1965 - Eastern Province Art Accociation
1975 - Solo-Exhibition,  Little Gallery, Port Elizabeth
1979 - Contemporary African Art Exhibition, toured South Africa 
1986 - Historical Perspectives of Black Art in South Africa, Pretoria
1988-89 Neglected Tradition Exhibition,  Johannesburg Art Gallery
1989 - Monument Gallery,  Grahamstown
1991 - Solo-Exhibition,  Everard Read Gallery,  Johannesburg
1992 - Everard Read Gallery,  Johannesburg
1993 - Solo-Watercolour Exhibition,  Highbury Gallery,  Port Elizabeth 
1996 - Retrospective Exhibition,  South African National Gallery,  Cape Town

Cory Library for Historical Research,  Rhodes University,  Grahamstown,   Tatham Art Gallery,  Pietermaritsburg,  Johannesburg Art Gallery,  South African National Gallery,  Cape Town,   Rotary Club of Dokin,  Port Elizabeth,  King George VI Art Gallery,  Port Elizabeth,  Killie Capbell Collection, University of Natal,  University of Fort Hare,  Dora Nginza Hospital,  Port Elizabeth,  Nedcor Bank Collection,  Port Elizabeth Black Sash Advice Office,  Aujac Investments,  Johannesburg,  Gauteng Legislature,  Johannesburg,  The World Bank Collection,  Washington DC.,   and private collections world wide.

Images of Man,  Contemporary South African Black Art and Artists,  Fort Hare University Press,  E.J. De Jager,  ISBN. 1-86810-015-4

Against All Odds,  Jonathan Ball Publishers (Pty), 1996, Sarah Huddleston, ISBN. 1-86842-036-1

Pemba,  Retrospective Exhibition,  South African National Gallery,  SANG ISBN 1-874817-14-6

George Pemba,  Painter of the People,  Barry Feinberg,  ISBN  1-874932-37-9

Land and Lives,  The story of early black artists, Human & Rossouw,  Elza Mils,  ISBN 0798136588

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