15th Mar, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 14
Lot 14 - George Pemba (South Africa 1912-2001)


George Pemba (South Africa 1912-2001)

oil on board

Artwork date: 1993
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right
Location: Cape Town

Sold for R250,360
Estimated at R250,000 - R400,000


oil on board

Artwork date: 1993
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right
Location: Cape Town


53.5 x 74.5 cm; framed size: 73.5 x 94.5 x 3.5 cm


Private collection, Cape Town.


George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba created this intimate domestic scene of a woman offering a man a plate of food for breakfast late in his life. Painted in 1993, the artist was already 81 years old.

A pioneer of Black Modernism in South Africa, Pemba today occupies a unique place in the country’s art historical canon. However, while his artistic production spans over seven decades widespread recognition only came to the artist towards the end of his life.

By 1987 Pemba noted in his diary that he had appeared several times on TV and was showing works at Fort Hare and Zululand Universities1. In 1989 he was also included in the prestigious Neglected Tradition exhibition curated by Steven Sack at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The most dramatic shift was, however, after his exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg

in 1991. The sales from this show enabled the artist to buy a new house and convert the garage into a studio.

For the first time in his life Pemba had a real studio and serious recognition. Breakfast, painted only 2 years later, was thus created at a time when, although suffering from ailments associated with old age, the artist had finally reached a point where he could celebrate the recognition afforded him and dedicate himself entirely to painting.

A compassionate observer of people, Pemba became a visual chronicler of the joys and sorrows of township life, often painting interiors describing social relations. In Breakfast he shows the woman bringing nourishment – as an active carer – and this is a theme often repeated. Both Peeling Potatoes (1987) and Gossip at the Hearth (1993), for example, illustrate women bringing warmth into domestic spaces. The subject may raise issues of ascribed family roles in the maintenance of urban households but, importantly, also brings attention to Pemba’s recognition of women as the ones who brought comfort to and bound his community.

Text by Sarah Sinisi

[1] Huddleston, S. (1996). Against All Odds. Jeppestown: Jonathon Ball Publishers. p.82.


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.

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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


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