I have worked in African Township Hospitals since nearly sixteen years. My first encounter with African Township life was at the Mzilikazi Township in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in the nineties. I was then a Registrar in Orthopaedic Surgery at the Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo. The township used to burst with gaiety especially on weekends. Jazz, dancing and beer use to overflow at every street. People forgot their everyday problems and came together in a stream of enjoyment. I remember dancing to the strains of Amandamara.
I shifted to Umtata in the former Transkei and later to Mdantsane in the former Ciskei. I still work in Mdantsane and have been enjoying the thrills of a vibrant township life. I have encountered township art on various occasions. There is a school next to the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, where I work, its walls are painted with such beautiful murals ranging from the school headmaster wearing his felt hat to girls in various festivity dress. I have always wondered who the artist may be.
Apartheid era brought a restriction to inflow of knowledge on world art to such remote townships. But that didn’t restrict the art which kept on flowing from their brushes. The art is unique as it didn’t have any influences.
One of these is an artist called George Pemba whose works were recognised only at the age of seventy-nine. I came across a painting done by George Pemba at the Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London, South Africa. It is titled ‘Overload’ and is Oil on Canvas work. It is a typical depiction of a township scene with people in various emotional states overloaded in a bus. I was struck with the deft brush strokes that brought out such realty that one needs to see the picture again and again and from different angles. It brought in me such happiness being familiar with such daily scenes in townships, where I work.
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