Telly Tuita: Tongpop’s Great Expectations

Telly Tuita, Tevolo Diva (Norma), 2023, UV ink on opal acrylic, courtesy the artist

Exhibition Dates: Wednesday 3 January–Thursday 28 March 2024  
Tongpop Party & Exhibition Opening: Friday 12 January 2024, 6–9pm

Campbelltown Arts Centre presents Telly Tuita: Tongpop’s Great Expectations, the first solo exhibition of Wellington-based visual artist Tuita in Australia.  

Telly Tuita’s childhood memories in Tonga are a driving force in his artistic practice, they are at the heart of his powerful performative self-portraits over a 25-year period (1999-2023). Tongpop is a term coined by Tuita to describe his visual language. It celebrates Tuita’s rich relationship with his ancestral home of Tonga and his lived experiences in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand).     

The exhibition, Tongpop’s Great Expectations, invites visitors to experience Tuita’s Tongpop multiverse. It is a compelling assembly of early works from Tuita’s time growing up in Minto and working in Campbelltown and from his practice since 2017 when the artist moved to Pōneke Wellington, Aotearoa. Central to the exhibition are two major new commissions. The first a site-specific Tongpop landscape which will feature mixed media painting and installation. The exhibition will also present a new multi-channel video work, the artist’s first time working in animation.     

Telly Tuita encourages visitors to recognise their own life in his story, especially the conflict between great expectations of ourselves and the expectations of our contemporary global and technological reality. The exhibition is accompanied by an intergenerational public program which will focus on how one encounters the different stages of life, in Tuita’s words, “dawn, day and dusk”. 

About the Artist   

Telly Tuita was born in Tonga in 1980. Tuita had a rocky start to life, his mother and father deserted him as a child. Even today, he has not met his mother. Tuita was passed around different villages in Tonga. At the age of nine, he was found by his grandfather who sent him to Minto, New South Wales to live with his father and stepmother. Young Tuita spoke no English and was hit in the face with the modernity of Sydney. At age 14, Tuita was kicked out by his stepmother and had to start again. In 1996, aged 16, Tuita was adopted by his uncle and aunt in Campbelltown. He completed his Higher School Certificate at Campbelltown Performing Arts High School.

Tuita holds a Masters of Special Education, University of Sydney (2011); Bachelor of Art Education, University of New South Wales (2004); and Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art), Western Sydney University (2003). Solo exhibitions of  Tuita’s work include TongPop Fetish at Object Space, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and TongPop Nostalgia at Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch Toi Moroki. Tuita has been included in group exhibitions such as Ballarat International Foto Biennale (2023), Ballarat, Australia; Whetūrangitia//Made As Stars, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, Aotearoa (2022), SpaceYZ, Campbelltown Arts Centre (2021) and Saltwater/Interconnectivity at Tautai Pacific Arts Trust, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland (2020).     

Located on Dharawal land, Campbelltown Arts Centre is proudly owned by the people of Campbelltown. A cultural facility of Campbelltown City Council, assisted by the NSW Government through Create NSW. Campbelltown Arts Centre receives support from the Packer Family Foundation and the Neilson Foundation. This project has been supported by the Hazlett Family and Cameron Brae Group.

Public Programs:

Project Team 
Artist: Telly Tuita
Artist Collaborator: Richard J Bell  
Curator, Contemporary Visual Art: Isabelle Morgan  
Assistant Curator, Contemporary Visual Art: Anne-Marie Brockenhuus-Schack  
Collections Officer: Sam Spragg
Acting Director & Business and Engagement Manager: Mouna Zaylah
Head of Curatorial: Adam Porter
Little Orange Studio Coordinator: David Capra
Little Orange Studio Facilitator: Julia Finch
Creative Learning and Engagement Officer: Timothy George  
Assistant Creative Learning Producer: Julia Quinn  
Education Officer: Celeste Wrona  
Assistant Education & Creative Learning Producer: Samantha Relihan  
Design & Communications Officer: Donna Vo  
Visitor Experience Coordinator: Rebecca Anderson  
Venue Technician: Phu Nguyen 
Business Admin Trainee: Aaliyah Coronel
Visitor Service Officers: Louise Snowdon, Mellissa Grierson, Julie Finch, Laura Brunick, Erica Revere, Alexandra Malcolm, Tim Almonte, Mariam Chanaoui, Paige Northwood, Eva Hampel 
Production Team Leader: Brendan Van Hek 
Gallery Technicians: Nicci Bedson, Corrigan Fairbairn, David Langosch, Alex Latham, Jamie Manweiler, Willa Pratt, Tom Sandberg, Lucy Whitelaw, Tom Yousif 


Tongpop’s Great Expectations (film), 2023
HD video and sound
30:09 minutes
Filmmaker: Ludwig El Haddad
Courtesy the artist
Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre