Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Jewellery and Fine Wine

Live Virtual Auction, 8 - 11 November 2020

Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art Part II

Sold for

ZAR 455 200
Lot 834
  • George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba; Assassination of Shaka Zulu
  • George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba; Assassination of Shaka Zulu
  • George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba; Assassination of Shaka Zulu
  • George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba; Assassination of Shaka Zulu
  • George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba; Assassination of Shaka Zulu

Lot Estimate
ZAR 400 000 - 600 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 455 200

About this Item

South African 1912-2001
Assassination of Shaka Zulu

signed and dated 73

oil on canvas board
55 by 75cm excluding frame; 70 by 90 by 4cm including frame


George Pemba is widely appreciated for the technical skill and sensitivity of his portraits and scenes of everyday life, but his historical paintings, that come onto the market more rarely, are a particularly important and significant contribution to South African art and cultural history.

In the present lot, Pemba depicts the death of the historical king Shaka Zulu (c.1787–1828) at the hands of his halfbrothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, and a fellow conspirator Mbopha. The artist Cecil Skotnes produced a portfolio of colour woodcuts dealing with the life and assassination of Shaka and shows both Mhlangana and Mbopa in the act of stabbing the king. In contrast, Pemba avoids the gruesome act itself and depicts a moment after Shaka’s death. The three perpetrators still lurk in the background, one holding a bloodied spear, but the picture plane is dominated by a woman (wearing an isicholo, the hat denoting her married status), grieving over Shaka’s lifeless body. There is a traditional Zulu grass hut in the background, with Shaka’s cow-hide war shield (isihlangu), stabbing spear (iklwa), and knobkierie (iwisa) on the right, testifying to his status as the great warrior who developed the Zulu chieftainship into a powerful, wide-ranging empire.

A life-long lack of funds prevented Pemba fulfilling his dream of travelling to Europe to see the works of artists he admired – Velásquez, Rembrandt and the Impressionists – but with the help of a grant from the Bantu Welfare Trust in 1944, he was able to embark on a ‘grand tour’ of South Africa, travelling from his home in Port Elizabeth through the Transkei, KwaZulu-Natal, and Lesotho. He used this opportunity to study traditional dress and cultural practices and the impressions gained on this trip no doubt continued to inform his later depictions of rural village life and historical southern African events. In addition to being a painter, Pemba was a playwright, writing and staging at least two plays, one on the life of the prophet Ntsikana, who brought the gospel to Xhosa communities, and one on the Xhosa visionary Nongqawuse, whose prophecies resulted in the cattle-killings of the 1850s. The events surrounding Nongqawuse also appear in a series of paintings by Pemba, including The Girl who Killed to Save, 1976, (the title drawn from HIE Dhlomo’s 1935 play) and The Dream II, 1985.

View all George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba lots for sale in this auction

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