Rollo John Hovell was born in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula and was educated at Harataunga Primary School and Mt Albert Grammar. He continued his studies at Auckland University, Massey University and Waikato University and graduated with an M.A. (1st class honours), B.D., Dip.Ed. and Dip.Tchg. Hovell has been a teacher on the East Coast, at Coromandel District High School and at Te Aute College. He was a Visiting Fellow in Māori Arts at the University of Auckland in 1986 and has done post-graduate research in modes of Melanesian story telling. He has lectured at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education, Honiara, and has worked on a series of icons based on Santa Isabel painted paddles.
Hovell is an ordained Anglican priest and has worked in the field of mission and education in the Solomon Islands for the last fifteen years. From time to time he returns to New Zealand to work on Māori arts projects in public buildings and marae. Since 1975 he has worked on fourteen art projects.
Hovell describes himself as “more of a painter than a writer - the writing, mainly scattered notes, criticism, analysis, bits in exhibition and gallery catalogues and marae publications - mostly unacknowledged and totally uncollectable!”
- Correspondence from Rev. Rollo Hovell, 25 May 2004.
- Landfall 167: 351.
- "Uetelese Temese." Landfall 41.3 (1987): 300.
- A discussion of the artwork of Samoan artist Uetelese Temese and of the emerging generation of young Polynesian artists growing up in New Zealand who are working from a strong cultural base. Hovell notes the ability of these artists to make "leaps across the barriers of art traditions to find a new synthesis, a new vantage point from which to combine the elements of vastly different techniques and processes."
- "More of a Licking than a Spitting: Epeli Hau’ofa’s Kisses in the Nederends." Landfall 42.3 (1988): 296-303.
- Hovell writes in this criticism of Hau’ofa’s Kisses in the Nederends, that he is "not concerned with the subject matter of the story as such, or with the episodic nature of the telling.... It is the problem of finding strategies to actually read the book that intrigues [him] here."
- "Paua Tide." Te Ao Hou 56 (1966): 13.
- The speaker nostalgically reminisces back to the time of the Paua tide which was a rare tidal occurrence that would uncover the paua clinging to the rocks.