George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba
George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba was born on 2 April in Port Elizabeth where he died on 23 July 2001. He grew up in the Eastern Cape and as a young child he was encouraged to draw and paint. He studied at Lovedale College where he obtained a teachers diploma in 1931. He worked at the Lovedale Printing Press between 1931 and 1936, before taking positions as a messenger of the court and later a clerk in the Native Administration Office. During this time he illustrated books about African customs and traditions. In 1948 he resigned from his job and held his first solo exhibition. Some of Pemba's best work was in watercolour, but at this time he also moved from watercolour to oil painting. In 1950 he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Professor D.D.T. Jabavu for Fort Hare. However in 1952 he needed an additional income to keep his family and so he opened a spaza shop, but this did not allow him much time to paint. In 1969 support from the International Defense and Aid Fund enabled him to focus on his painting. In 1979 Pemba was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts in Fine Arts from the University of Fort Hare. Pemba has been excluded from past assessments of South African art, but was included in the Johannesburg Art Gallery's 'Neglected Tradition' exhibition in 1988. An exhibition of his work was held at the Grahamstown Festival in 1989. A retrospective exhibition was held in 1996. Pemba was interested throughout his life in traditional culture and the impact of urbanization on his people. An excellent portrait artist, he depicted his subjects with sensitivity not only capturing their likeness but also their character. His paintings are noted for their excellent composition and their bold use of colour. Pemba is recognized as a pioneer of social realism in South Africa and he work can be seen at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, King George VI Art Gallery, South African National Gallery and the Tatham Art Gallery.
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