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Pemba was born in 1912 in Hill's Kraal, Korsten, Port Elizabeth. 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. He won a Grey Scholarship, which enabled him to receive post primary education, and in 1931 he obtained a Teacher's Diploma at the Lovedale Training College in the Eastern Cape. That same year he began working for the Lovedale Printing Press, and continued to work there until 1936. The following year he studied under Professor Austin Winter Moore for five months at Rhodes University, made possible through a bursary awarded from the Bantu Welfare Trust. Pemba was awarded a second bursary in 1941. This time he spent two weeks at Maurice van Essche's studio in Cape Town attending art classes.
During the 1940s he met John Mohl and Gerard Sekoto, who encouraged him to work as a full-time artist, however during this time he worked for the Native Administration in Port Elizabeth as a clerk. From 1952 to 1978 he supplemented his income selling groceries in a shop. Following that, Pemba taught art to children at the S.A. Institute of Race Relations and in 1979 was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts Degree from the University of Fort Hare.George Pemba experimented with painting and became a famous water colour and oil panter.
A highly successful exhibition of paintings from the 1940s onwards, was held at The Everard Read Gallery in 1991. 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.
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