Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)
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Tutarakauika • Guardian Whale


  • Medium: mataī (New Zealand Black pine)
  • Size: 11 × 67 × 2.5 inches
  • Reference Code: K30605


This whale tail form represents the guardian whale, Tutarakauika. The story tells of Tutarakauika, as being a taniwha (spiritual being) in the form of a whale, who accompanied the Takitimu canoe on its voyage to Aotearoa. The tohunga (high priest) of the Takitimu canoe was Ruawharo. Once he settled at Te Mahia peninsula, he planted a mauri (life force) for the whales and fish of the sea. As the population of whales increased at Mahia, Ruawharo decided to send one of his whales, Tutarakauika, to act as a guardian for the chiefs of the Wairoa district. On occasions when canoes at sea were capsized by storms, this kaitiaki (guardian) is said to have taken them back to shore.

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.

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Spirit Wrestler Gallery

47 Water Street
Vancouver, BC
Canada V6B 1A1

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Phone: 604-669-8813


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3 blocks from Waterfront Station
Between Abbott St. and Carrall St.

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