Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Rangatira • Chief


I named this carving Rangatira as a mark of respect in acknowledging the tangata whenua (people of the land) or First Nations tribes of Canada. Many relationships have been formed between Māori and First Nations under the umbrella of art. Some of these ties were created through the initiatives of the Spirit Wrestler Gallery in hosting a number of cross cultural exhibitions that highlight the significance of two great art forms from two different cultures. These relationships continue to build with every gathering whether it is on either side of the Pacific.

I’ve come to learn some of the countless similarities between these two cultures like the importance of whakapapa (genealogy) and the connections to our ancestors. The value that is placed on the land and all that it provides is emphasized with a focus on those ties to ones tribal roots. We have a whānau (family), hapū (sub-tribe), iwi (tribe) based structure that is governed by strong cultural customs and protocols. We both tell the stories that were handed down through the generations and record them through our art. We are spiritual peoples with a great respect for nature and an acute understanding of all of its elements.

Our tribal connections define our heritage and so it is the paramount chief that symbolizes all of these facets as the eminent leader of his people. He represents all of those gone before him upholding their mana (power, prestige) as well as having earned his own. As a true warrior, he will lead his tribe fearless in battle and strives to maintain the integrity of his people and to ultimately ensure the certainty of a positive and prosperous future.

—Todd Couper

*Exhibited with Spirit Wrestler Gallery at Māori Art Market in Porirua, New Zealand, as part of celebrations during Rugby World Cup 2011.

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.