The eagle I feel has a presence that sets it apart from the rest of the bird world. The sight of a lone eagle perched at the top of a dead tree is one that can be awe inspiring. Such a noble creature cloaked in layers of beautiful plumage you would expect to command Mana (prestige, integrity) and respect within the animal kingdom as a paramount chief would by his people. With a slight air of mystery the eagle to me portrays a sense of royalty and as the lion is king of the jungle, the eagle is definitely ruler of the skies.
The ancient Hokioi (New Zealand Eagle) was a bird of such stature and our Maori ancestors believed it to be a spiritual messenger that could transcend the physical and spiritual realms.
Parallels can be drawn with the First Nations tribes of North America. A bird that is seated deeply in their culture is greatly respected and to which they hold a strong spiritual connection with. The Eagle is truly a magnificent creature, having the beauty, grace and elegance of a king with super acute senses, raw power, agility and speed. Such a combination can only describe this creature as the ultimate predator.
My first trip to Canada in 2003 for the Kiwa – “Pacific connections” exhibition I was very fortunate to witness one of these majestic birds. As part of the cultural exchange, the First Nations artists in their tribal groups performed for us at The Museum of Anthropology which was a powerful and very memorable experience. To make it even more special, mid-way through the groups performances I happened to glance outside to see a beautiful Bald Eagle gliding slowly over us. I couldn’t help but think it was not just a coincidence but a spiritual sign that their ancestors were there with us on that day. Since that significant moment I have always wanted to carve a Bald Eagle and so this piece illustrates the beauty of the bird itself, but also importantly represents that day, when the two cultures came together to share their art their stories and their songs as the ancestors spirits looked on through the watchful eye of a lone Bald Eagle.—Todd Couper
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.
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