Sun, 31st Oct 2021 11:00

Art, Life and Love: The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya (Live Auction)

  Lot 2
Lot 2 - George Pemba (South Africa 1912-2001)


George Pemba (South Africa 1912-2001)
In the Train

oil on board

Artwork date: 1991
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right; inscribed with the artist's name, date, the title, dimensions and medium on an Everard Read gallery label on the reverse
Exhibited: Strauss & Co., Johannesburg, Social Stances: George Pemba and Robert Hodgins, 1 to 30 July 2021, illustrated in the catalogue on pp.8-9.

Sold for R432,440
Estimated at R350,000 - R500,000

Condition Report

The overall condition is very good. The paint is vibrant and stable with lustre, protected behind a glass frame.

The frame is in very good condition.

Please note, we are not qualified conservators and these reports give our opinion as to the general condition of the works. We advise that bidders view the lots in person to satisfy themselves with the condition of prospective purchases.


oil on board

Artwork date: 1991
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right; inscribed with the artist's name, date, the title, dimensions and medium on an Everard Read gallery label on the reverse
Exhibited: Strauss & Co., Johannesburg, Social Stances: George Pemba and Robert Hodgins, 1 to 30 July 2021, illustrated in the catalogue on pp.8-9.


50 x 70 cm; framed size: 76.5 x 96.5 x 3 cm


Everard Read, Johannesburg.


A pioneer of Black Modernism in South African art, George Pemba is regarded for his enduring compassion in depicting the lived realities of his people. Proud of his Xhosa heritage and culture, Pemba, like his ‘thirties generation’ compatriots Gerard Sekoto, John Koenakeefe Mohl and Gerard Bengu, challenged the colonial gaze by offering a unique social realism of a people and their individual and collective joys and struggles during the most turbulent times in South African history.

A highlight of the Nwabisa Xayiya collection is 9 remarkable paintings by Pemba from the 1960s to the early 1990s. Spanning over 4 decades, this group of paintings represents a core part of Pemba’s themes and artistic production. Collectively the group stands as a valuable visual recording of a history and socio-political life in the rural areas and townships (mainly of the Eastern Cape) throughout a specific time period. Included are scenes of daily existence and social interactions like in The Agitator (1960) (lot 54), Township Games (1973) (lot 4), The dice players (1975) (lot 80), The Preacher in the Church (1990) (lot 3), In the Train (1991) (lot 2) and The Waiting Room (1992) (lot 55). Ordinary people gathered in domestic settings and public places including churches, funerals, hospitals, trains and taxis, streets, fields and private homes, engaging in acts of community, faith and solidarity was an important source of inspiration. A figurative painter by definition, Pemba attentively recorded these events and people – of an almost bygone era – in rich and vibrant colours which give the paintings a timeless vitality.

Pemba himself was not a political activist and his work did not serve any political interests or ideology. He was however an empathetic observer, and loathed apartheid rule which caused much suffering to many people as depicted in Unemployed (1986) (lot 56), for example. In some instances, his paintings do reflect a personal viewpoint and particular events, especially during the state of emergency years of the 1980s, including police raids, marches and riots made an emotional impression on him, as seen in his portrayal of Comrades (1988) (lot 53).

This unique group of paintings exemplifies that Pemba’s work is not only celebrated for its honesty and integrity by offering a sincere insider perspective, it is also an everlasting legacy of an artist who kept on painting against all personal and political odds.

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Auction: Art, Life and Love: The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya (Live Auction), Sun, 31st Oct 2021

This October, 2021, we are honoured to present Art, Life and Love:  The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya, a single owner auction showcasing the cultivated taste and style of Nwabisa Xayiya.

The auction offers examples by great modernists as well as exciting contemporary pieces. Notable is a selection of work by George Pemba. There is also a set of impressive urban scenes and portraits by Gerard Sekoto, a rarely seen Alexis Preller, a glorious Robert Hodgins, and varied examples of Dumile Feni’s work. Within the contemporary offering, there are outstanding works by Blessing Ngobeni, Sam Nhlengethwa, William Kentridge, Teresa Firmino, Athi-Patra Ruga, Kudzanai Chiurai, Nelson Makamo, Owusu-Ankomah and Nicholas Hlobo.


Lots will be on view at the Xayiya residence: 63 4th Street, Houghton, Johannesburg
Saturday 23 October to Saturday 30 October from 10 am to 6 pm

View all lots in this sale

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