A Grand Tour
"It was during the year 1944 that I wrote to Dr Alexander Kerr of Fort Hare applying for a loan. This loan was intended to enable me to see the beautiful plains and mountains of my own land, as I felt I could no longer tolerate being shut up in an office.
"I longed to see the Zulus, from whence the Xhosa originated, and the Basothos, the original people. By the way I belong to Ngquosini tribe, the river people, who fled Moshoeshoe, and joined the Xhosa many years ago.
"My letter to the Bantu Welfare Trust was quite a work of art (it never occurred to me that I would be able to write a letter like that). In the beginning I explained to the committee my ambitions, and stressed the point that I was proud of being a Bantu artist, of painting the soul of my nation, which I loved from the depth of my heart.
"I achieved what I wanted. They granted me ?25 plus the loan of ?50 would not allow me to travel in luxury, but I did not intend doing so. On the contrary, I wanted to live like a tribesman, to share the conditions prevailing amongst the classes of Natives with whom I would have to deal, but to be for a short time, not Pemba, but someone else. I was always able to put myself in the place of another person, and this ability helped me a great deal in building up my art. I think, that one must be like this if one wants to create truthfully." (p40)"
"So I left my dear Port Elizabeth by train, on a warm and mild day in October 1944. I stopped for a week in Cradock for my sister [Esther] was nursing there. It was purely a family visit as Cradock didn't offer much in the way of Native characters. ...
"I left Cradock and travelled directly to Johannesburg. I had never before seen South Africa' biggest city and was therefore full of expectations. The city of gold mines, the beating heart of South Africa would at least have something to offer my art. I did not expect to find any tribal life in the City. I was more that surprised to find whole tribes working in their tribal dress on the mines. I spoke to some of these people. Most of them were farmers, who had left the reservations on account of comparatively high wages, which the mines paid.
I think there is nothing connecting them with the town in which they live. There is not the love of the homeland, no pride of tradition. There is only the ardent wish to make money, to gamble, to be thrilled at the thought of getting rich.
"Johannesburgers have something in common with those Natives who came from somewhere to make money, and may leave for somewhere having achieved their object. I think there is nothing connecting them with the town in which they live. There is not the love of the homeland, no pride of tradition. There is only the ardent wish to make money, to gamble, to be thrilled at the thought of getting rich." (pp40-41)
"Although it is a very European city, there is very much more Native originality in Durban, than in Johannesburg. I paid regular visits to the Zulu dance competitions in the [Durban] show ground... What impressed most, was the fact, that practically every member of the Zulu population, took an active interest in the dance competition. I made many sketches of the dances and they are considered as valuable part of my production." (pp41-42)
"I certainly was very keen to paint such extraordinary scenery [in Basotholand] and also to become acquainted with the people living in these surroundings. ... I was able to paint Basotho in their primitive apparel. These pictures were among the best I painted on my journey through South Africa. I felt inspired by the spirit of the past and my strength grew with the task which I had in front of me. To capture the essence of native South Africa." (pp43-44)
- Huddleston, S. 1996. Against All Odds: George Pemba: His Life and Works, Jonathan Ball Publishers: Johannesburg, pp40-44