Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Te Ahungaroa i te Pō • Night Flight


“Spiritually stimulated moving within the potential of night and time.”

Within Māori ideology, the potential of night is a layered affair, interlocked with mystery and wonder… laced with awe and foreboding. A dual world to which potential is conceived and the unknown resides. It is this world my ancestors return to once the physical body breathes its last breath… the afterlife.

My father, Samuel Te Hami (Rusty) Toia was born in the far north tribe of Ngā Puhi, in 1934. Having a large family of a known 15 blood siblings he ultimately lived with the Timoko family as an adopted child of this also large family. He left the comfort of the only world he knew to find his way in life at the meagre age of 15. Simply saying to his blind grandmother… “I am going now” to which the reply was spoken “always be careful…” and with that he was gone.

Te Ahungaroa i te Pō (Night Flight) is my way to honour him and his life and to also celebrate him in his death. My father came from a poor yet proud background with only his street smarts to keep him safe and a dream to find his potential. The coming years were tough, kind, challenging, rewarding. He would meet and marry my mother, Margaret Alice Beswarick and between them raise a family to which I am the youngest son of two boys. He was a guarding figure, tall and proud, strong and fearless. He was a man of his times, a blue collar worker, a loyal friend, an entertainer, a fighter, a survivor… this was my father.

Upon his death in 2012, I celebrate him through this carving as a blood child of the Ngā Puhi bloodlines, of a rich history that travels back in time to that of Hawaiki (ancient homelands). My father’s illustrious ancestors who bravely negotiated the perils of the wild world and these revered adventures settled and tamed the land of Ao-tea-roa (New Zealand). I am of this blood… my father’s blood… now of a time long past.

Through my father, do I live close in his world today.
To you, I honour and love you whilst I bid you well upon your
flight to Te rerenga a wairua (spiritual journey to the afterlife), so
you can return to the warm embrace of those who have gone before.
In you, my father, I am.

—Roi Toia

Roi Toia

Roi Toia


Ngā Puhi

(1966- )

Roi was born and raised in Southland province in the South Island of New Zealand, although his whakapapa (genealogy) is the Te Mahurehure hapu (sub-tribe) from the Hokianga in Northland on the North Island. In 1983, he received a three-year apprenticeship to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua, where he learned to carve with the adze and chisel and graduated with honours. He has carved on four whare whakairo (carved houses), which fuelled his passion for perfecting the technical aspects of his art and led him to learn about the ideology and spiritual aspects of carving.