Primarily toki (adze) are traditional tools. The handling of such tools varied depending upon what was happening within the community. The main purpose of toki is whakairo (wood sculpture) under which the key functions are the carving of traditional meeting houses, the construction of waka taua (war canoes) and waka haorua (sea-voyaging canoes).
The design of toki is such that it became an awesome weapon in time of attack and defending the community’s safety. The use of toki during battle and defence was abundant, however, because of the significant spiritual value toki personify they were never thrown in battle, and only applied by the hand of the holder.
Toki are also used for reciting whakapapa (genealogy), each adze is—and was—passed down from one generation to the next, increasing the value of the toki each time it was handed over. Often feathers, hair and other personal adornments were collected and used to embellish the features of toki and further enhancing their mana (spiritual power).
The practice of handing down these treasures still continues today. Maori believe these taonga (treasures) reflect the embodiment of past genealogies and the spirituality of Maori. They have become more than just an adze or weapon or a mere ornament that hangs on a wall. They are real living signposts and windows to our past that encapsulates the spirit of our great ancestors.
—Gordon Toi Hatfield, December 2006
April 23 - May 14, 2016
The Spirit Wrestler team: Colin Choi, Derek Norton, Nigel Reading and Gary Wyatt, have been together now for over 30 years representing master-level Inuit, Northwest Coast, and Māori art - and for the last 20 years as the Spirit Wrestler Gallery. We are celebrating this amazing 20-year journey with a “birthday” exhibition, “Reflections 20Years”. The exhibition will feature many of the great artists from the three extraordinary cultures that we represent that have shared and supported us on this journey… and it is also a “thank you” for all of you who have made this journey so much fun! The Spirit Wrestler Gallery was founded in 1996 and quickly became one of the foremost galleries of first-nation art in North America. The name Spirit Wrestler originates from the title of the book by James Houston that tells the story of a young shaman learning his powers in the Canadian north. At the time, the gallery was looking for a name that allowed for the consideration of both traditional and shamanist-based arts here in Canada, as well as embracing the work by other artists from around the world. Early exhibitions included artists from Alaska, the Canadian Plains, and the Māori from New Zealand, being shown in the same room as Northwest Coast and Inuit art. The cross-cultural interactions have offered a unique fusion in the gallery and generated many group and solo exhibitions that we have hosted over the years. We were witnessing the trend of a growing interaction internationally between artists who were travelling far afield to research the art and modern cultural practices of other nations - and along the way, forging friendships that have endured across great distances. The last two decades have also been an exciting transition time for the arts being created by all three cultures. There was a pronounced movement towards the incorporation of new materials, such as glass, bronze, and polymers - which has opened new avenues for the art itself, both in terms of subject and scale. To be a part of seeing the artists exhibiting their work side-by-side has been very exciting and has made the Spirit Wrestler Gallery a unique and challenging experience for any visitor. We have had the privilege of representing many of the greatest Northwest Coast, Inuit, and Māori artists of our time - and have have had the privilege of showing a great number of the most important pieces produced over the last three decades. It has been an honour to share this long journey with so many great artists and clients. Thank you all so much for your belief and support.
Spirit Wrestler Gallery
47 Water Street
Canada V6B 1A1
Toll Free: 1-888-669-8813
3 blocks from Waterfront Station
Between Abbott St. and Carrall St.
Monday to Saturday, open 10-6
Sunday and Holidays, open 12-5
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