Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Toroa • Albatross


  • Medium: kauri
  • Size: 13 × 40 × 11 inches
  • Reference Code: K30302

The albatross is such an important bird to the Maori / Moriori culture. This sculpture honours the many qualities that this majestic bird epitomizes with its graceful, inspiring presence. The albatross, an ocean guardian, gliding effortlessly on a sea breeze, patrolling the waters.

These great birds were an important resource, the meat provided food for survival, the prized plumes worn by chiefs on special occasions, and the strong wing bones were fashioned into chisels for the art of ta moko (tattooing). The bird was also respected for spiritual reasons, as it is said in earliest times that the ancestor, Tawhaki, brought the albatross down from the 12th heaven after his battles with Whiro (God of Evil). He went to seek knowledge and the pure white plumes of this and other sacred birds to adorn his wife. The white colour signifies brightness, light, life, the sun and moon.

This bird has a massive wingspan, a balanced and tapered body, but I felt the head was the most interesting feature to explore, with such a delicate, streamlined form, designed for power.

Todd Couper

Todd Couper


Ngāti Kahungunu

(1974- )

Todd attended Te Aute Boys College in Hawkes Bay from 1987 to 1991 and quickly excelled in art. In 1995, he completed the Diploma of Art, Craft and Māori Design at Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua; he majored in woodcarving/sculpture and graduated with honours. It was during this time that he met Roi Toia, who was teaching there. Roi, impressed with his talent, invited Todd to apprentice with him. They continue to work together, but Todd has forged his own style and direction in carving, with commissioned pieces residing in collections in the United States, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. He participated in Kiwa: Pacific Connections (2003) in Vancouver, Canada.