Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Wakahuia • Feather Bowl


  • Medium: tōtara, kauri
  • Size: 4.5 × 12 × 6.5 inches
  • Reference Code: K61101

This vessel form is based on the wakahuia (guardian treasure box) with koru designs on lid. Traditionally the wakahuia was carved to house the treasures of a chief and in particular the prestigious Huia feathers which is where the name wakahuia comes from. A chief’s head was very tapu (sacred) and therefore anything he wore on his head was tapu also. It was important to keep these special treasures safe and out of reach of others to ensure they were not obtained and mistreated. Precious items such as feathers, combs, ear pendants and hei tiki were placed in a wakahuia and then suspended from the rafters in the chief’s whare (house). Being suspended meant that the underside was visible and often carved with intricate detail. This was not to be touched by anyone but the chief himself. Today the wakahuia form is still carved by carvers and artists alike. Now we may not have the tapu restrictions of old and the actual vessel forms have possibly changed somewhat due to the natural progression of a developing art form. Nevertheless, they still have the same function and are used in a similar manner. Wakahuia are prized artworks in their own right and the ideal place for us to keep our own personal treasures whatever they may be.

—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.