Pemba, George (1912 – 2001)
George Pemba was born in Hill’s Kraal, Korsten, Port Elizabeth. Although art classes were not offered at
the Van der Kemp mission Primary School where he was educated, Pemba developed an early love for
art, which his father encouraged by buying him pencils and crayons.
In 1924 he won a Grey Scholarship to Paterson School, where he devoured the art books in the school’s
library. As a 16 year old pupil, he entered and won an art competition at a local agricultural show.
Pemba’s art was his passion, yet art was not a viable career for a young black man in the early part of
the 20th century, and Pemba studied teaching and took up a post at the Wesleyan Mission School in
King Williams Town in 1935. Pemba finally turned professional in the late 1940’s, and held his first solo
exhibition East London. Despite that most thought his profession was inappropriate for a ‘native’ ,
Pemba persevered with his work thanks to the support of a few patrons and his wife Eunice.
Pemba was also a writer of note, and penned at least two plays known to have been staged. He
was later awarded with an honorary Masters’ Degree from University of Fort Hare in 1979 for
his contribution to art. The South African Government bestowed George Pemba with the “order
of Ikhamanga in gold” at the National Orders awards on 19 October 2004, for his pioneering and
exceptional contribution to the development of the art of paintings and literature.
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