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Petero’s Soul by Lesley Wengembo

Petero's Soul

Lesley Wengembo

About the artwork and sitter

Petero is rugby league royalty in Queensland. He played 235 games for the Brisbane Broncos, 33 games for Queensland, 45 test matches for Australia and six tests for Fiji, his country of birth.

He is now a Deadly Choices Ambassador, working on inspiring positive attitudes and behaviours, and encouraging young people to become the best they can be.

‘Growing up in Papua New Guinea, Rugby league is one of the most popular sports in the country. The annual State of Origin game is so popular. Meeting up with legendary players like Petero Civoniceva is unforgetable and the best thing to happen. A big guy with the freindliest personality.’

About the artist

Lesley wanted to be an artist from a young age, and completed a Bachelor of Fine art at the National Art School of Australia in 2021. The Papua New Guinea artist paints large-scale photorealistic portraits that capture the minute details of his subjects. He has entered the Archibald Prize four times, and was a finalist in the Brisbane Portrait Prize in 2020, with a portrait of Tim Fairfax, AC.

“This connection draws me to capture the familiarity in Civoniceva's expression, 'The most friendliest smile'."

Behind the scenes

I wanted to capture the legendary NRL Brisbane Broncos Player, Petero Civoniceva in his most iconic pose where people connect with. A big guy with a humble and likeable personality.

Meeting him, I was nervous at first but then I got to talk with him, I got the sense of recognisable connection where I encounter before. I knew straight away I had already known someone like him, not a popular or celebrated person,  but a Fijian security guard at the National Art School, Sydney where I Study at, Malachi Nagobi is his name. 

Malachi had sited for me for the 2020 Archibald Prize with the painting titled Malachi’s Soul. Though the painting didn’t make the finalist, it has made a lot of headlines on internet and press mentions including The Guardians and Sydney Morning Herold. ( Check the stories online)

This connection draws me to capture that familiarity in Civoniceva’s Expression, ‘the most friendliest smile’.