Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Matau • Fish Hook


  • Medium: kauri, rātā base
  • Size: 15 × 7 × 3.25 inches (incl. base)
  • Reference Code: KC111201

This simple hook form can symbolize the profound connections Māoridom has with the sea, as a source of food, a provider of raw materials and the binding element linking Māori to their homeland of Hawaiki. Strongly associated with the legendary warrior Māui, the story tells of how he fished up the North Island using his grandmother’s jawbone as a hook.

These examples are indicative of the diversity Māori philosophy plays crossing the practical and spiritual plateaus. A fish hook needed to be strong and sharp and designed in such a way as to be effective in catching fish of all kinds. The hooks were beautifully made and like many implements made by Māori were so finely hand crafted and usually adorned with carving or weaving that they were indeed works of art. Therefore with this matau I wanted to highlight and accentuate the shape and form of the matau in a more contemporary format. I was then able to use artistic license and really draw out the finites of the design and add subtle lines that contrast with the bold colour and pattern. This calls for a steady hand, very sharp tools and a lot of patience.

—Todd Couper

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.