Peter Wing Seeto talks to us about Good Hair Days, hair expression and self-identity 

A topic such as hair seems fairly generic, and more like something we tick off the to-do list before we leave the house every morning. Secretly, hair is an expression of your true self, and New Zealand artist Peter Wing Seeto is no stranger to navigating the subject. Peter’s Melanesian roots bring a cultural significance to the relationship with their hair, and Tautai Pacific Arts Trusts’ current exhibition is an exploration of the subject, bringing raw, powerful feelings to the walls for us to explore. Read to learn more about Peter, their relationship with their hair now, as well as where the concept for GHD stemmed from (and not the GHD that you’re thinking of). 


How did you begin your journey in the art industry? 

For me, I've always been inclined to art in general. I've been doing it since the very beginning of high school up until year 13, and then I went to Elam School of Fine Arts in 2016. It's something that I've always done, that's just been my calling.

& why Tautai? 

Tautai has always been a space that existed for Pasifika Arts, and for a lot of us, there are not that many spaces that are inclusive in such a way. Conducting a show there was something that I always felt was meant to happen, I was just waiting for the right time. I was introduced to Tautai through attending Elam, going to the shows and going to the workshops, so it just made sense that the show would take place there given how special it is to people. 


How does your Pasifika culture inspire your craft? 

It's definitely something we all draw back to given that our cultures are entwined with art-making in general. However, it's just 'how much do we take from that without having to exploit it' has always been something that I'm wary of - we can constantly make work that's culture-heavy, and ethnic-based but it's just taking some from it, not all from it. 

Let’s talk about the significance of Tautai’s current exhibition: Good Hair Day. Where did the inspiration for this come from?

The inspiration for the show stemmed from Luisa, our curator. In 2018, I visited a show she curated called Wontok - it featured a lot of Melanesian makers telling their stories, and the topic of hair was a big one. At the time, I wasn't really appreciating my hair - I would always disregard it and almost despise it. After going to that show and seeing people who look like me, from the same heritage and lineage and showcasing what to do with their hair, I walked out feeling truly inspired. I met up with a friend who was also in the show and we started talking about how cool it was to see - we wrote a rough proposal to make Good Hair Day, and it ended up sitting in our drive for years actually, but because of this, we were able to meet people along the way who could bring the show to life. 


How do you go about exploring the subject of hair considering it seems like just an ‘everyday’ topic?

I feel like when everyone sees GHD they think of the straighteners, and GHD is essentially about combatting frizz, so we wanted to take that and turn it into a positive for us and make it all about the frizz! We started to share stories of all the hair phases we've been through from when we were young, and as time went on, the transition to “no, this is our hair and this is our story.”

Of course, hair is an expression of your self-identity. How has it been expressing yourself (and putting yourself out there essentially) in such a raw and real way for people to see? 

There's just something about rocking an afro [laughs]. I never used to get stares when rocking my normal buzz cut, but now I’ll occasionally be walking through the street and get "Oh, I like your hair!" It's crazy because that's just something that's just growing on my head! [laughs]. It just makes it feel better to have what we have and not be ashamed of it like we used to.


And how is your relationship with your hair?

I mean... There are times when I'm like 'sigh' [laughs]. It takes a lot of time, but it's part of the process and it's definitely rewarding in a sense when you go out and flaunt it! 

Is there anything exciting coming up that we can talk about? 

I'm definitely on my rest period at the moment, and I'm still getting used to the idea of resting after making the exhibition. I do have a project coming out called 'Build Your Universe' which is exciting because we get to highlight nine LGBTQ+ creatives and their universe which I'm excited to bring forward.