Born in Sāmoa and raised in Manukau City, Tanu Gago belongs to a large family with a diverse cultural background. Gago draws on his unique perspective and life in South Auckland to make art that directly engages with urban social issues including the fluid nature of ethnic and gender identities. In his 2010 solo exhibition You Love My Fresh at Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Gago presented a projection constructed in three parts. The first work titled You Love My Fresh featured a composite of black and white urban photography emblazoned with bold yellow text. Phrases including ‘Your cultural experience makes me cynical, violent and resentful’ and ‘I feel redundant as a citizen of your first world’ bounced and shuddered across the screen, demanding attention. In his most recent body of work Avanoa o Tama, 2012 Gago presented a series of photographs of Polynesian men which destabilise preconceived notions of gender and sexuality. Gago challenges the social and cultural expectations surrounding the representation of gender by concentrating on the ambiguous and performative nature of masculinity and sexual identity.
Gago studied performing arts at Unitec Institute of Technology and received a Bachelor of Arts in performing arts with a major in writing and directing for screen.