15th Mar, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 12
Lot 12 - George Pemba (South Africa 1912-2001)


George Pemba (South Africa 1912-2001)
Transkei Woman

oil on canvas board

Artwork date: 1970
Signature details: signed and dated top right; inscribed with the title on the reverse


oil on canvas board

Artwork date: 1970
Signature details: signed and dated top right; inscribed with the title on the reverse


56 x 45.5 cm unframed


Private collection, Gqeberha.


In 1931 a sitter for one of George Pemba’s portraits told him “But I never thought you could paint souls!”[1]. Pemba’s ability to create psychologically charged and empathetic portraits has established him as a celebrated artist of the genre. In Transkei Woman the sitter meets our appraisal with a calm, measured and contemplative gaze bringing into sharp focus Pemba’s exceptional skill as a portrait painter and also his deep interest and passion for traditional African heritage.

In his diary in the 1940s Pemba wrote “I was always able to put myself in the place of another person, and this ability helped me a great deal in building up my art. I think, that one must be like this if one wants to create truthfully”.[2] Pemba’s deep interest in human nature allowed him to capture the psychological aspects of his subjects and this small, intimate portrait of a Transkei Woman emanates with a deep sense of reverence and the respect the artist, no doubt, held for the elder.

Although urban born and bred and the product of a Christian middle class upbringing, Pemba maintained a great pride in African heritage. In 1944, he secured a grant from the then Bantu Welfare Trust and embarked on a grand tour across South Africa. Interested to see how different people lived, the artist wanted to “capture the soul of the South African peoples in their natural surroundings”. He recalls, “This loan was intended to enable me to see the beautiful plains and mountains of my own land, as I felt I could no longer tolerate being shut up in an office. I longed to see the Zulus, from whence the Xhosas originated, and the Basutos, the original people….I belong to the Ngquosini tribe, the river people, who fled Moshoeshoe, and joined the Xhosas many years ago”[3]. Pemba painted many portraits and works portraying traditional life after this early trip and the genre would become an important part of his oeuvre throughout his life.

Text by Sarah Sinisi

[1] Sunday Times Heritage Project, George Pemba: Artist in the Wilderness. Available at https://sthp.saha.org.za/memorial/george_pemba.htm (Accessed 23 February 2023).

[2] Huddleston, S. (1996). Against All Odds. Jeppestown: Jonathon Ball Publishers. p.40.

[3] Ibid.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, the Cory Library for Historical Research, Rhodes University, Grahamstown; the De Beers Centenary Art Gallery, Alice; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg and The World Bank Collection, Washington, D.C.

You can place an absentee bid through our website - please sign in to your account on our website to proceed.

In the My Account tab you can also enter telephone bids, or email bids@aspireart.net to log telephone/absentee bids.

Join us on the day of the auction to follow and bid in real-time.

The auction will be live-streamed with an audio-visual feed.

Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 15th Mar, 2023


Kickstarting the 2023 program Aspire Art are delighted to present their first Live sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art in March. The sale has become a highly anticipated event in the Cape Town auction calendar, showcasing and recognising works by truly exceptional artists from Southern Africa.

Contemporary highlights include seminal works by William Kentridge, Robert Hodgins, Sue Williamson, Johannes Phokela, Zander Blom, Athi-Patra Ruga, Dan Halter and Georgina Gratrix amongst others. International superstars include Pascale Marthine Tayou and Francisco Vidal.  Photographic works feature prominently as a special section and include limited editioned prints by celebrated documentary photographers Alf Kumalo and David Goldblatt alongside incredible photographic works by artists like Mary Sibande, Ayana Jackson, Candice Breitz and the award-winning Mikhael Subotzky.

Leading the sale is a group of important and rare works by South African modern masters, most significantly a selection of expressive drawings by Dumile Feni and paintings by social realist George Pemba. The modern collection is complimented by a landscape painted by J.H. Pierneef and a beautifully rendered gouache by Irma Stern from 1951.


Preview: 10 to15 March

Mon-Fri: 8.30-4.30, Saturday: 10-2 or by appointment


View all lots in this sale

Images *

Drag and drop .jpg images here to upload, or click here to select images.





While we endeavour to assist our Clients as much as possible, we require artwork(s) to be delivered and/or collected from our premises by the Client. In instances where a Client is unable to deliver or collect artwork(s), Aspire staff is available to assist in this process by outsourcing the services to one of our preferred Service Providers. The cost for this will be for the Client’s account, with an additional Handling Fee of 15% charged on top of the Service Provider’s invoice.

Aspire Art provides inter-company transfer services for its Clients between Johannesburg and Cape Town branches. These are based on the size of the artwork(s), and charged as follows:

Small (≤60x90x10 cm): R480

Medium (≤90x120x15 cm): R960

Large (≤120x150x20 cm): R1,440

Over-size: Special quote


Should artwork(s) be collected or delivered to/from Clients by Aspire Art directly, the following charges will apply:

Collection/delivery ≤20km: R400

Collection/delivery 20km>R800≤50km

Collection/delivery >50km: Special quote



A flat fee of R100 will be added to the invoice for packaging of unframed works on paper.


International Collectors Shipping Package

For collectors based outside South Africa who purchase regularly from Aspire Art’s auctions in South Africa, it does not make sense to ship artworks individually or per auction and pay shipping every time you buy another work. Consequently, we have developed a special collectors’ shipping package to assist in reducing shipping costs and the constant demands of logistics arrangements.

For buyers from outside South Africa, we will keep the artworks you have purchased in storage during the year and then ship all the works you have acquired during the year together, so the shipping costs are reduced. At the end of the annual period, we will source various quotes to get you the best price, and ship all your artworks to your desired address at once.

Aspire Art will arrange suitable storage during, and cost-effective shipping at the end, of the annual period.



Collections are by appointment, with 24-hours’ notice

Clients are requested to contact the relevant office and inform Aspire Art of which artwork(s) they would like to collect, and allow a 24-hour window for Aspire Art’s logistics department to retrieve the artwork(s) and prepare them for collection.


Handling Fee

Aspire Art charges a 15% Handling Fee on all Logistics, Framing, Restoration and Conservation arranged by Aspire.