Antiquarian Auctions

SA Auction #90 begins on 15 Apr 2021

US Auction #7 begins on 17 Jun 2021

George Pemba and Others


Published: C1980 - 2012

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This is an extensive and largely personal archive of the important South African artist Milwa Mynaluza (George) Pemba (1912 – 2001). It comprises the following items, mostly representing the last twenty years of his life from the 1980’s onwards:

1.Twelve extensively hand-written notebooks of various sizes in which Pemba reflects in detail about every aspect of his life, his teaching, his art, art in general, his travels, the South African politics of the day and so on. In these notebooks he also writes drafts of the letters which he sent to a variety of people – both personal and relating to his art and drafts of speeches he was preparing. Most importantly, these notebooks contain three versions of an autobiography that he was writing but which seem never to have been published. He gave this work the title: ‘The Artist of Algoa Bay or Umzobi wase Cacadu’. In all many hundreds of pages of tightly written text.

2. In addition to the above there are Pemba’s personal diaries from the years 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. In these Pemba meticulously records his daily activities, shopping lists, appointments and also pens several thoughts, philosophies, notes for speeches and the like.

3. A collection of circa 140 assorted pen and ink, pencil, crayon, coloured pencil, gouache and pastel drawings and sketches, mainly removed from the artist’s sketchbooks and accompanied by handwritten notes and comments by Pemba on his influences, teaching, life and work. This invaluable collection has now been preserved in an album with archival quality plastic pockets.

4. Eleven loose file folders containing extensive hand written and other material. One of these folders contains a 3 page typed precis of Pemba’s autobiography mentioned above and also circa 80 incomplete photocopy pages of the autobiography with manuscript corrections. A second folder contains original letters sent to Pemba by a variety of people. One folder contains more extensive handwritten notes, possibly removed from notebooks. Another contains a large collection of press cuttings relating to Pemba and his exhibitions. Some of these folders contain personal items such as bank statements, cheques, accounts, funeral programmes, his ID book and other such ephemera. In all a huge wealth of rather disorganised material.  

5. Lindop, Barbara. Gerard Sekoto. 1988. 1st edition of this book. A loved and well used and stained copy of this book without the dustwrapper. But with a wonderful inscription to Pemba by the author which reads: ’10.19pm.17-11-88/DearMr.Pemba/Gerard Sekoto and I would/like to thank you for honouring the/launch of the book Sekoto with/your company. What a party and what a memory! I’m sorry/you only won first prize!/With love/Barbara Lindop’. A special association copy linking these two great South African artists.  

6. Proud, Hayden & Feinberg, Barry (Editors). Pemba. 1996. A limp black leather, specially bound copy, of the 108 page catalogue produced for the Retrospective Exhibition mounted at the South African National Gallery in 1996. A presentation copy to Pemba from Nedbank with a calligraphic inscription and signed by Proud, Ivan May and three others. In addition, on a blank fly leaf, the book bears lengthy inscriptions from two young artists Bongi Bengu and Jimmy Ntutili. Internally Pemba himself has made several ink annotations/comments.  Original glossy illustrated wrappers bound in. Effectively could be viewed as the dedication copy although without a printed dedication. Some staining.  

7. Peter Clarke : South African Artist. This is a 12 page 4to. Brochure in wraps produced by Clarke himself in 1987 and recorded by Rankin and Hobbs in ‘The Voice of Distant Thunder’ as unpublished. It would appear to be rare. With a wonderful inscription ‘To George Pemba/with my very best wishes/from Peter Clarke/April 1989’. A superb association copy of this rarity, again associating two great South African artists. Some staining but a good complete copy. 

8. In addition to the two books above, this archive contains eight other books or journals which belonged to Pemba and which either have one of his paintings on the cover or which are inscribed by or to him (see the image). 

9. A collection of circa 19 magazines or periodicals all of which have contributions by or about Pemba (see the image). 

10. Two large framed photographic portraits of Pemba printed on canvas to resemble oil paintings. These measure 48 x 37cms. and 44 x 33cms. respectively in the frames. 

11. Two personal photograph albums which belonged to Pemba. The main one measure 33 x 18 cms and contains circa 250 fine quality photographs – both of Pemba’s paintings and of his personal and professional life including launches/exhibitions, all enclosed in plastic pockets. The second folio sized self covered album is a little defective and has circa 20 photographs laid down on brown paper. There is also some printed material and some press clippings laid down on a few of the pages, with evidence of several photographs having been removed.  

12. A frayed and somewhat chipped and folded copy of the large exhibition poster for Pemba’s 1996 exhibition at the National Gallery. 

13. Barry Feinberg, George Pemba. Painter of the People. Viva Books. Johannesburg. 2000. 8vo. 74pp. glossy paperback in fine condition. Unaccountably scarce. 

14. The large folio sized portfolio of twelve exhibition posters ‘George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba – 1912-2001’ written and produced by Barry Feinberg for The Department of Arts and Culture” for a portable exhibition to celebrate Pemba’s life. A very good copy in the original illustrated wraps.  

15. A first day cover of the five stamps issued by the South African Post Office in 2012 with the designs all made from Pemba paintings.  

Condition As this archive was presumably originally obtained from the deceased artist’s estate and as it was not preserved by him with a view to its collectability or archival importance, the condition of most items is well used and varies from fair to very good. Some items contain some staining and even some damp damage in a few. The important lots – notably the notebooks and the album of original drawings, are generally in very good condition. I will be happy to answer any queries concerning this.

George Pemba spent most of his life in relative poverty. His recognition as an artist of great importance only happened fairly late in his life, accelerated by a large exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery in 1991, the Retrospective Exhibition at the South African National Gallery in 1996 and the publication of the  book, Against All Odds, by Sarah Huddleston, also in 1996. Several of the Pemba descriptions of his ‘Grand Tour’ around South Africa which Huddleston includes in this work are to be found in the autobiographical sections of the notebooks included in this lot. It is pleasing to note the ever escalating prices achieved by Pemba works on the Auction market over the past several years.

A major archive of an important South African artist. As this is an item of extreme cultural significance to South Africa, it is only being offered in this auction for purchase by South African buyers. Of necessity, in view of the size of this archive, the description offered above is abbreviated and incomplete. I would welcome any interested parties to contact me and if desired to arrange a viewing at my residence in Houghton, Johannesburg.

  • Overall Condition: Good
  • Size: Various
  • Sold By: Ronald Levine - Modern First Editions
  • Contact Person: Ronald Levine
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Telephone: 27 11 728-2044
  • Preferred Payment Methods: EFT for S.African customers and PayPal or Bank Transfer for overseas clients. I regret that I no longer accept Credit Cards..
  • Trade Associations: SABDA

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