Back to map

About Leonard Tebegetu

A self-taught artist from Papua New Guinea, Leonard Tebegetu's work has explored the human form in action - on the streets of urban centers and in smaller communities of his island home. His new work also addresses material consumption by societies locally and globally. 

Tebegetu began his career as an artist by designing a graffiti poster for a friend. He was drawn to the melding of "urban rhythms, graffiti, and classical training" in the work of New York artist Justin Bua. After having left law school, Tebegetu decided to devote himself to art.

The artist's oil paintings focus on the ordinary man, and his place on the street. Likening his subjects to "totem poles", the artist aims to focus on the space in which his subjects occupy and how that space affects them and those that they come in contact with.  As a member of The Roots: Creative Entrepreneurs, Tebegetu is engaged in community projects that combine sustainable design, leadership, and an artistic sensibility.

In 2014, Tebegetu was named the inaugural de Young Global Fellow.



About the Project

The Global Fellows project is an opportunity "to go under". To immerse myself in the rituals and practices of my people that have shaped the presentation of song and dance and other traditional art forms particular to New Ireland. The artist or artisan, in the process of creating art, generally adheres to strict practices - practices which lead to a heightened state of mental and physical awareness about the realm in which he works in, about the powers that have shaped the story of time as known to the clan and moiety.  Digging deep into the recesses of his mind, the artist becomes one with his past and the present as they become part of his art.

This project will be driven by that state of mental and physical awareness. It will aim to explore and respond to the body as a medium through which the inner artist is manifested thus documenting a process that engages both the physical and spiritual aspects of creating art traditionally. The resulting body of work, the outcome of this process, will be delivered as part of this fellowship.

About Global Fellows

The de Young Global Fellows program invites indigenous artists from around the world to activate the museum as a space where important cultural connections can be forged and historic collections can be enlivened through the interactions with the public. Art, indigenous knowledge, and technology will be brought together to interrogate and explore the relationship of our global community to our shared natural environment.

Throughout each year, the selected artist will share process as they develop their work and educate local, national, and international audiences about the environmental issues facing Pacific Island communities. They will also utilize their artwork to protect and maintain the cultural heritage of their communities. For one month, in November, the artist will take up residence at the de Young museum to share their works and works-in-progress, promoting cross-cultural exchange and dialogue and to engage in biocultural education and expression.

“Through the work of these artists, the Global Fellows program will educate museum audiences and the broader public about Pacific art and artists and enhance understanding of Pacific cultures and the environmental issues facing their communities,” said Christina Hellmich, curator in charge of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

The de Young Global Fellows are supported through the generosity of The Christensen Fund.

  • 2014: Melanesia | Leonard Tebegetu, Papua New Guinea
  • 2015: Northern Australia | artist tba