Telly Tuita was born in Tonga in 1980. Tuita had a rocky start to life as his mother and father deserted him as a child, even today he hasn't met his mother. He was passed around from different villages in Tonga, and at age nine his grandfather sent Tuita to Sydney to live with his father and Australian stepmother, complete strangers to his nine-year-old self. Young Tuita spoke no English and felt more alone in his new home than he had in Tonga. At age 14 he was kicked out by his stepmother and had to start again.
Tuita masterfully combines tradition with the contemporary with hints of the biographical in his work. From orphan to emigrant to being gay, his experiences play a central role to his art practice. Tuita has created a distinctive visual language he coined Tongpop. This arose out of Tuita’s love of bright bold colours, alongside traditional Tongan ngatu patterns and religious iconography. He uses Tongpop as a means to hold onto any connection he can find to his birthplace, all the while questioning and re-enacting issues of gender, religion, colonisation and all things pop-culture.
Tuita regularly rummages through second hand and dollar stores to find homewares or trinkets to create his work. This Tongpop flotsam covers every inch of his series, 'Diaspora’s Children'. Tuita makes and constructs everything that is in the image. This twin series of photographic tetraptych’s can be viewed by the public at Wellington City Council reception area.
A lot of other amazing works can be found on the Ngā Toi Arts page along with more details on the collection.
Find out more about the Make Visible programme.