“We [artists] retell, we speculate, we investigate, we chronicle, we create, we instigate, we fabricate, we activate, we procrastinate, and we decorate.” – Telly Tuita
Wellington-based artist Telly Tuita was born in Tonga in 1980 and immigrated to Sydney at age nine. Living in Australia for most of his life, Tuita’s disconnect from his Tongan heritage has long informed his practice. Exploring his cultural identity and complex relationship with his ancestral home has led him to form a distinct visual language, Tongpop.
Tongpop is Tuita’s self-described hybrid aesthetic, born from the artist’s love of bright bold hues, alongside traditional Tongan ngatu patterns and religious iconography. Tuita navigates ideas of home and belonging, borrowing familiar motifs, materials and methods of production, challenging idealised notions of the Pacific Islands.
Scouring secondhand shops and dollar stores, Tuita creates assemblages of thrifted homewares and holiday trinkets with a playful pop colour palette. The works serve as a reminder of unique cultural practices and deities that have been lost over time, here they are reinvented through Tuita’s lens. Tuita creates a new narrative for the found objects, recasting them as relics of the modern age.
Telly Tuita completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at Western Sydney University (1999-2003) before undertaking a Bachelor of Art Education at the University of New South Wales (2004). In 2011, Tuita completed a Master’s in Special Education through the University of Sydney.
Since moving to New Zealand, Tuita has exhibited in Christchurch, Hamilton, Wellington, Auckland and Tauranga and has been a finalist in a number of art awards including the National Contemporary Art Award and the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award 3D.
2022: Tongpop Cornucopia, Bergman Gallery Auckland, New Zealand.
2020: Tongpop Herstory, Weasel Gallery, Hamilton, New Zealand.
2020: Tongpop Fetish, Objectspace, Auckland, New Zealand.
2020: Tongpop He-story, Precinct 35, Wellington, New Zealand.
2020: Tongpop Nostalgia, CoCA, Christchurch, New Zealand.
2019: TONGPOP KAPOW, Precinct 35, Wellington, New Zealand.
2019: Auckland Art Fair, Weasel Gallery/The Cloud, Auckland, New Zealand.
2022: Aotearoa Art Fair, Auckland; Te Atuitanga – Between our Cloak of Stars, Bergman Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand.
2022: Wetūrangitia/Made As Stars, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
2022: Divergent, New Photography Aotearoa, curated by Robert Leonard, The Renshaws, Brisbane, Australia.
2021: MĀNAWATIA TAKATĀPUI : DEFENDING PLURALITY, Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga, New Zealand.
2019: Aati ‘i he po’uli Art in the dark. ‘Amui ‘i Mu’a – Ancient Futures Conference, Tanoa International Dateline Hotel, Nuku’alofa, Tonga.
2019: The Garden, Precinct 35, Wellington, New Zealand.
2015: Subversion-Art Month with the Contemporary Art Festival, Tortuga Studios, St Peters, Australia.
2011: Pacific Wave with the Logan Regional Art Gallery, Queensland, Australia.
2009: Buzz with the Global Art Gallery, Paddington, Australia.
- The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, New Zealand.
- Campbelltown Arts Centre, Australia.
- James Wallace Collection, New Zealand.