Bernard Gcwensa was born in 1918 in Pomeroy, Natal. Gcwensa received three years of primary school education ”” from 1932 to 1935 ”” at Collies School in Tugela near Pomeroy in the Msinga area. He did not receive any formal art training. Edwin Kinch, a Canadian Servite priest, stationed at that time at Hiabisa, admired Gcwensa\'s carved walking sticks during a visit to his kraal and commissioned him to produce a carved Madonna. This marked the beginning of a lifelong career of commissioned ecclesiastical work. From 1953 to 1970 Gcwensa was employed at Hiabisa in Natal producing objects for the Roman Catholic mission church, Malusi Omuhle. His major works produced for the church include nine doors with thirty-six carved relief panels, a three metre high crucifix and fourteen statuettes of the Stations of the Cross. In 1973 and 1974 he worked at Hammarsdale in Natal and from 1975 to 1978 at Inkomana Abbey, Vryheid, where he produced amongst other objects crucifixes and a carved relief triptych of the Nativity, Crucifixion and Resurrection. In 1978 he returned to his home in Hiabisa. Gcwensa\'s work was included in exhibitions at Mariannhill. As he suffered from asthma most of his life, Gcwensa was unable to work in stone. He frequently used tamboti and jacaranda wood. He died of tuberculosis in 1984 in Hiabisa, Natal.
961: Bloemfontein (Republic Art Festival). 1965: DAM (Bantu Inter Faith Art Exhibition).
1961: Republic Art Festival (second prize).
KC. Information supplied by Dina Cormick