• Telly Tuita

Telly Tuita’s fascination with portraiture stems from its ability to transform the persona of the sitter to whatever artist wishes to show. Born in Tonga in 1980, Tuita was abandoned by his parents as a baby. The lack of stories and imagery from his early life in Tonga have propelled him to create his performative self-portraits over the past 25 years.

Tuita has created his own brand, coined Tongpop, a style that has the traditional headbutting against the contemporary. The production and staging of his images hark back to European photographic studio portraiture, especially the rich cache of images of Moana people created in the heady early days of colonisation. He also always includes a nod to his Tongan culture; through repeated use of ngatu (tapa cloth), the atua (goddess) figure Hikule’o, shell and seed necklaces, and taʻovala (woven mats).

Taking control both behind and in front of the lens, Tuita performs a camp and playful critique of the colonial gaze. He constructs new archetypes or personas for himself, which are invoked through improvised and upcycled costumes, masks, backdrops and props. This allows another sense of self to emerge, one connected to his Tongan culture but immersed within the hype of our contemporary globalism.

In association with Bergman Gallery.

Opening Hours

  • Daily, 10am-4.30pm


  • Shed 11, Wellington Waterfront
  • 60 Lady Elizabeth Lane
  • Wellington