Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Tutarakauika • Orca


Whales of many kinds are common in the Pacific Ocean and are a cultural link between New Zealand and the North West Coast. Both Maori and First Nations peoples look upon certain whales as being kaitiaki (guardians) and are often revered within the histories of their tribes. One particular whale of importance in my tribe’s origins is the great Tutarakauika.

The story tells of Tutarakauika being a taniwha (spiritual being) in the form of a whale who accompanied the Takitimu canoe on its voyage to Aotearoa. The Tohunga (high priest) of the Takitimu canoe was Ruawharo. After the vast journey Ruawharo settled at Te Mahia Peninsula. He then planted a Mauri (life force) for the whales and fish of the sea and in time whales increased in numbers at Te Mahia. As an act of respect for the chiefs of the Wairoa district, Ruawharo sent one of his whales, that being Tutarakauika to become a guardian for their area. On occasions when canoes at sea were capsized by storms, this kaitiaki (guardian) is said to have taken them back to shore.

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.