Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Whai • Stingray


According to Māori folklore and historical accounts the Whai was one of the children of Punga, who was the son of Tangaroa (God of the Sea). Punga was said to have been the father of all nasty and ugly creatures. For some the Stingray was also considered a kaitiaki or guardian figure that accompanied the waka (canoe) on voyages such as the great migration from the spiritual homeland of Hawaiki. Often the Stingray is perceived as being one of the more dangerous fish of the ocean and for some the mere sight of one will entice fear. However contrary to its name and reputation, Stingrays are quite calm and docile creatures and will only use their barbed tail in defense if ever they feel threatened or are provoked.

They have an unusual but very sleek and interesting form that determines the way in which they glide through the water. When they move it appears smooth and effortless resembling that of an underwater bird flying in slow motion. It is a creature to be admired for its grace but definitely to be treated with the utmost respect.

—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.