Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Nature’s Way


As we know in nature there is an order of hierarchy among all living creatures of both land and sea. This unspoken lore is what shapes the governing balance and effectively ensures the sustainability of our natural world enabling a harmonious existence for all.

Looking from the outside, nature’s way can sometimes seem cruel or even brutal and we often describe it with common phrases such as “survival of the fittest” or “only the strong survive”! These are not just flippant remarks but actually are short sharp reminders of how nature operates and has done throughout evolution. Unless wild creatures are provoked or are protective of their young they will only kill to survive and do so with an unemotional motivation. As harsh as it appears it ‘is nature’s way’ which leads me to this artwork.

All living things great and small possess their own Mauri (life essence), Mana (prestige, respect) and Wairua (spirit) and therefore as one may consume another for physical sustenance I believe they also consume the Mauri, Mana and Wairua of that creature which they ultimately carry with them through their life’s journey. This artwork symbolises that metaphor, as we know that especially in Aotearoa (New Zealand) the Whai (stingray) is a big part of the Orca’s diet. Both of these beautiful creatures are also kaitiaki (guardian figures) in their own right especially the Whai with certain iwi (tribes) in Aotearoa and the Orca within First Nations culture. Therefore this piece also talks of the cultural connections and close friendships that have been formed between Maori and First Nations through our art.

Most significantly while I was carving this piece I met First Nations artist Klatle Bhi. We shared stories and talked about the symbolism behind this carving. He explained to me that his name ‘Klatle Bhi’ describes the leader in a pod of whales as it comes up for a breath and dives back down. This to me was so ironic and significant that with his blessing I dedicate this piece to that moment me met and the everlasting connections of our two cultures.

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.