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16 year old Lesley Wengembo: PNG’s youngest painter and artist

by Marie Kauna – EMTV Online, Port Moresby

Lesley Wengembo is a 16 year old grade nine student at the Gerehu Secondary School in Port Moresby. Lesley hails from Pangia – Morea in the Southern Highlands Province, and is the third born of the four boys.

Lesley, like many boys his age, has dreams and goals for which he strives to accomplish. For the young lad, he hopes to one day be a professional painter, a dream he says grew from his love of drawing.

His mother, Josephine Gundu, sells beautifully woven bilums and sewn meri blouses that she makes herself. Her creativity and fashion-sense enabling her to design her bilums and blouses and through her sales, earns income to support the family. Lesley’s father, Alex Wengembo, is an administration driver employed with Coral Sea Hotel in Port Moresby.

Lesley’s passion for the arts began as a student in grade seven. He fondly recalls a talent show staged at the Assemblies of God (AOG) church at Morata in the North-west electorate of Port Moresby. It was during the talent show that Lesley surprised the audience with his drawing. He drew a sketch of a human figure, and painted it on stage; an amazing show of raw talent for a boy of his age which surprised everyone, especially his parents.

Seeing the talent and potential that young lad had, the AOG Morata church asked Lesley to paint the church with beautiful Christian images; this offer he accepted and took the opportunity presented to him, painting the church with Christian murals.

Lesley’s passion for drawing and painting grew and he’s spent more time sketching and painting; through time, his work has grown from strength to strength. Through the many opportunities given, he has successully been able to display his work through various forms. This was the initially the start of his journey to selling his artwork.

In the beginning, Lesley was unsure of how he would go about marketing his artwork and eventually selling them off but through the support of family and friends, especially his mother Margret who continuously encourages Lesley, he decided to take a leap of faith and go a step further with his talent.

From his drafts and sketches, Lesley painted a couple of portrait and sold his first painting for K5. He then began pricing his artwork at K5 each and sketched and painted as many portraits as he could, all of which were sold to eager customers. He then moved on to working on portraits of various sizes and priced them from K10 to K100 according to their sizes. The much larger portraits were sold for amounts ranging from K500 to K1000.

Through sheer determination and hard work, the young 16 year old has turned his hobby and passion into a business venture for himself. He is proud of how far he’s come, stating that he started from nothing and gone on to generate good income to sustain him, and to support his parents.

Lesley is an oil base painter and says that the items that he needs to do his paintings are quite expensive. He is supported by his parents and his family. Lesley’s family, after seeing the positive outcome his artwork has brought, have all encouraged him and supported him in achieving his goals.

With the money he earns from the selling of his portraits, he is able to purchase his paints of different colours, papers, stationary and other necessary items that he needs. The rest of the money earned is given to his parents to assist with his school fees and bus fare.

Lesley is looking forward to pursuing a career as an artist and painter after he completes his secondary education. Despite the demand and commitment needed both for his education and his artistic dream, Lesley prioritises education most and his painting second.

According to Lesley, “time management is the key to successrdquo;, and added that “he doesn’t spend a lot of time just on painting”, he balances both. Lesley uses his free time after school to paint and during the weekends to do his selling. Young Lesley Wengembo is now known in the artistic painting group, as the youngest painter and artist.

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