Monday, May 17, 2010

(Social) Realism: South Africa

George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba (1912 – 2001)
George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba (1912 in Korsten, Port Elizabeth – 2001) was a South African painter and writer. He was posthumously awarded the Order of Ikhamanga. 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 1940's 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.

Gerard Sekoto (1913 - 1993)

Gerard Sekoto (9 December 1913 - 20 March 1993), was a South African artist and musician. He is recognized as the pioneer of urban black art, social realism, and more recently as the father of South African art and of his 8 daughters and 3 sons. He has had exhibitions in Paris, Stockholm, Venice, Washington, Senegal as well as in South Africa. In 1938 at the age of 29 he left for Johannesburg to pursue a career as an artist. He lived with relatives in Gerty Street, Sophiatown. He held his first solo exhibition in 1939. In 1940 the Johannesburg Art Gallery purchased one of his pictures; it was to be the first picture painted by a black artist to enter a museum collection. In 1942 he moved to District Six in Cape Town where he lived with the Manuel family. In 1945 he moved to Eastwood, Pretoria. Sekoto's paintings became political in the 1970s due to apartheid in his home country. In 1989 the Johannesburg Art Gallery honoured him with a retrospective exhibition and the University of Witwatersrand with an honorary doctorate.

The Shebeen, Sophiatown

Soko Majoka (Sixpence a Door)

JennyParsons (1967)
Born (1967) and schooled in Durban, Jenny graduated from the Natal Technikon with a Higher National Diploma in Fine Arts in 1988. After graduating, she participated in numerous exhibitions including a solo exhibition at Grassroots Gallery. She worked as a lecturer for the Natal Technikon Short Courses Unit and for the Natal Society of Arts until moving to Cape Town in 1991. Jenny has since worked with a number of art and educational institutions including Community Arts Project, the Durbanville Cultural Society and the Ruth Prowse College of Art and Design.

In 1996, together with artists Mary Visser and Diana Page, she started the Boudoir Biscuits, a collective of women artists. The group have collaborated on numerous projects and exhibitions and provide each other with ongoing support and inspiration. In 2002 the Biscuits were one of three finalists in the Cape Town Convention Centre National art competition. They were also awarded the design contract for the carpets in the Judges Chambers in the New Constitutional Court Building in Johannesburg. Parsons works as a full-time artist from her studio in Observatory, exhibiting regularly in South African galleries.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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