Aspire Art Auctions

Description: George Pemba, South African 1912–2001, I Epolojice My Warship, signed and dated along the left edge; inscribed with the title on the reverse

  • Notes: George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba occupies a unique place in South African art. His depictions of people are marked by insight and empathy for his fellow human beings. Painted in 1947, I Epolojice My Warship is a legacy piece that introduces Pemba’s social realism. Pemba completed this painting while he was preparing for his first solo exhibition in East London in 1948. The work was originally acquired directly from the artist and has remained in the same private collection for over six decades. An accomplished portrait in oil paint, this rare early painting stands among the finest works by Pemba ever to come to auction. As a painting it can be appreciated on multiple levels. The apparent humour of the title (inscribed on the reverse of the canvas) resides in the artist’s deliberate use of pidgin English which the court—at that time—might have expected of a black man. Pemba, one of the first black artists to benefit from tertiary education, provides clear indicators of his intent in the title in which the phrase ‘your worship’ is transposed into My Warship – each the very antithesis of the other. The sitter’s quizzical expression alerts the viewer to the significance of the work. Pemba’s expertly painted portrait conveys the humanity of the subject caught in a double bind—while understanding the consequences of a harsh judgment from the court, he must nevertheless perform obsequiously without undermining his own sense of self-worth. With his subject consciously role playing the obsequiousness required in the relations between subaltern and coloniser, Pemba provides a critique of the colonial order of authority. Hayden Proud, Senior Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Iziko South African National Gallery and author of the Pemba monograph, commends “Pemba’s respect for the value of good drawing, inventive composition, accomplished handling of paint and an overarching sense of vision” which are all evident in this early painting. EB
  • Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist and thence by descent.
  • Dimensions: 41 x 35 cm; Framed size: 50 x 44 x 5 cm
  • Artist Name: George Pemba
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Circa: 1947
  • Condition: The overall condition is very good. The painting has been cleaned and revarnished. Minor stable cracking in areas consistent with age. Professional report available on request.

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March 4, 2021 7:00 PM SAST

Cape Town, South Africa

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
ZAR 0 ZAR 4,999 ZAR 500
ZAR 5,000 ZAR 9,999 ZAR 500
ZAR 10,000 ZAR 19,999 ZAR 1,000
ZAR 20,000 ZAR 29,999 ZAR 2,000
ZAR 30,000 ZAR 49,999 ZAR 2,000
ZAR 50,000 ZAR 99,999 ZAR 5,000
ZAR 100,000 ZAR 199,999 ZAR 10,000
ZAR 200,000 ZAR 499,999 ZAR 20,000
ZAR 500,000 ZAR 999,999 ZAR 50,000
ZAR 1,000,000 + ZAR 100,000