Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Whai Manu • Eagle Ray


In one account of Māori mythology, the Eagle Ray along with other notorious creatures, such as sharks and other rays, were said to have been the children of an ancestor named Punga. Punga was a son of Tangaroa (god of the sea) and had two sons, Ikatere (swimming fish) and Tū-te-wehiwehi (fear and awe). Ikatere’s children became these ominous fish of the sea and Tū-te-wehiwehi’s children became reptiles of the land. This explained the similarities between fish and reptiles.

The Eagle Ray has a very diamond like shape similar to a bird in flight hence the name “Eagle” ray. I felt this would be a great cross cultural piece as the eagle plays a significant part in First Nations culture of the Pacific Northwest. As this is the destination of the ray then it seemed even more appropriate subliminal link between the two countries.

In the design on the wings I have incorporated an abstract form of an eagle head using pāua (New Zealand abalone) inlay for the eyes with the beak pointing to the tip of the ray’s wings. I have also highlighted this with the use of painted colours in this section that are relative to the golden eagle. The unaunahi (crescent shaped) pattern on either side of the body represents the flow of wind and water and portrays a forward motion. The piece is made up of two different timbers, totara for the central body form and kauri for the wings with brass rod indicating the sting of the tail.

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.