Considered one of the countrys most collectible artists, Villa came to South Africa during World War II as a prisoner of war after being captured in Egypt with about 63 000 other Italians, and remained in the country after the war.
During his time at the Zonderwater POW camp, he was encouraged to explore his artistic talents, and began modeling in clay.
After leaving the camp, he experimented with other mediums, soon settling on steel, which he painted in bright colours.
His works feature abstract, geometric and industrial forms, as well as highly stylised representations of the human body. Like Cubists such as Picasso, he combined a European artistic tradition with stylistic elements from the indigenous art that he found in his adopted home.
In 1961, with artists Cecil Skotness, Cecily Sash,Giuseppe Cattaneo and Sydney Kumalo, Villa formed the artists group Amadlozi (spirit of the ancestors) which focused on the conscious appropriation of African sculptural traditions.
Villa represented South Africa at the Venice Biennale five times, and received awards at the São Paulo Biennales in 1957 and 1959. He has exhibited at over 100 shows in Italy, Europe, England, Israel, South America and in the United States. In 1995, to celebrate the artists 80th birthday, the Edoardo Villa Museum was opened at the University of Pretoria.