Artist, teacher and playwright. Pemba was born on 2 April 1912 at Hill’s Kraal in Korsten, Port Elizabeth. Although art classes were not offered at the Van der Kemp Mission Primary School where he was educated, Pemba developed an early love for art which his father encouraged by buying him pencils and crayons.
The young Pemba became notorious for escaping from the drudgery of schoolwork into his private world of drawing.
In 1924, Pemba won a Grey Scholarship to Paterson School, where he devoured the art books in the school library. As a 16 year old pupil, he entered and won an art competition at a local agricultural show. Pemba began to expand his repertoire to include drawing portraits based on photographs, for which he earned pocket-money. Pemba claimed that his inspiration to paint came from both the internal and external- an emotional response to what he saw and experienced. Blessed with an excellent visual memory, events that had occurred much earlier in his life were often melded into current experiences or visa visual stimuli would recall a past memory that would then find its way onto canvas.
In the rapid urbanisation that was taking place during his lifetime. For the community, gambling and drinking were an escape from the daily grind of poverty. Shebeens and dance halls prang up everywhere. Pemba himself struggled with alcohol. He would drink as a release from the pressures of debt and financial responsibility to his large extended family. In many of Pemba’s interior scenes, the figures engaged in activity are set against a complex background. Pemba did not consciously set out to provide a narrative for the cultural and political changes that occurred during his lifetime. He was foremost an artist who sought to express himself through his work.
He continued to pursue his art for six decades. His exquisite paintings and drawings slowly began to attract a wider audience and led to his exhibiting more widely
Pemba passed away in 2001.