On this day in 1912, South African artist George Mnyaluza Pemba (also documented as Mnyala, Milwa), was born in Hillskraal, Korsten Village, Port Elizabeth.
He attended Van der Kemp Mission Primary School until 1924 when he won the Grey Scholarship to attend Paterson Secondary School. As a child he was encouraged by his father to draw and paint, and so began painting murals in the family house and producing portraits from photographs of his father’s employers.
Pemba’s work was first exhibited at the Feather Market Hall in Port Elizabeth in 1928, when he was 16. In 1937 he won the first prize in the May Esther Bedford Competition, where artist Gerard Sekoto received second prize. His first commission came in 1950, in the form of a portrait of the educator and activist, Professor Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu for the University of Fort Hare. Pemba produced a satirical cartoon for the first edition of the African National Congress’ newspaper Isizwe released in June 1959.
In 1992 a second exhibition served to commemorate his 80th birthday, which was also celebrated with the artist at the King George VI Art Gallery in Port Elizabeth. In 1995, Barry Feinberg produced a documentary on Pemba called George Pemba: A Painter of the People in collaboration with the Mayibuye Centre for History and Culture.
George Pemba died in 2001, and in 2004 was awarded by the South African government with The Order of Ikhamanga in Gold posthumously for his contribution to art and literature.