“Tara-tara-a-Kae (curvilinear design with notching): The origin of this design is documented in ancient tribal histories. Tinirau lived in Hawaiki, favouring the great whale Tutunui as his pet. Jealous of his alliance, Kae decided to destroy and eat the huge creature. Tinirau soon discovered his pet whale’s fate and set out to avenge the insult. Unsure of the true assailant, Tinirau ordered a party of women to entertain the suspected Kae. Their erotic performance proved costly to Kae because he started to smil and revealed his crooked teeth. In that moment Tinirau knew who the assailant was as he compared the lacerations left on the carcass of Tutunui to Kae’s crooked teeth. Tinirau exacted his revenge. This surface design is often found on food stores and carvings alike, representing food. The notching pays reference to Kae and his crooked teeth. Another interpretation likens the distinct notching evident in this surface design to the raised piles of dirt unique to the planting methods of the kumara (sweet potato). The ability to stockpile food meant that a community could host guests and strengthen alliances while providing security when under attack and the threat of siege.”
Excerpt from Kahui Whetu: Contemporary Māori Art, A Carver’s Perspective written by Roi Toia and 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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