Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Kaitiaki • Guardian



Māori are great believers of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and these guardians were represented in different forms that were specific to different iwi (tribe), hapu (subtribe) and whanau (family). They were often personified in the form of certain birds, animals and fish and so this particular piece represents the notion of kaitiakitanga with references to some of these guardian creatures. Three common kaitiaki are that of the whale, owl and the stingray to which are subtly incorporated in the design of this work and the inclusion of the many eyes represent all other kaitiaki.

Sometimes kaitiaki were called upon by our ancestors to accompany them and ensure their safety on great journeys and so the idea for this piece pertains to me and my special journey to Canada for the “Wero” exhibition.

—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.