“We [artists] retell, we speculate, we investigate, we chronicle, we create, we instigate, we fabricate, we activate, we procrastinate, and we decorate.” – Telly Tuita

Telly Tuita’s Tongpop Fetish conveys his personal journey between places over time, through the use of souvenirs as signifiers of culture.

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.  Following his study, Tuita has worked as an art teacher and within special education whilst maintaining his own art practise and exhibiting in group shows throughout Australia.

 Since moving to New Zealand, Tuita has exhibited in Hamilton and Wellington and has been a finalist in a number of art awards including the National Contemporary Art Award and the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award 3D.

Telly Tuita, The Three Graces, U’ufoasini (detail), 2019

Telly Tuita, Tongpop Fetish, 2020. Image: Samuel Hartnett

Telly Tuita, Tongpop Fetish, 2020. Image: Samuel Hartnett.