Spirit Wrestler Gallery

Please Note: Our older webpages were intended to be read scrolling left-to-right.
They may have information that is out-of-date.

page 1 of 1

These pages are an archive of an exhibition the Spirit Wrestler Gallery held in 2004.

If an item is not marked as "sold" then it may still be available. Please contact the gallery to inquire.

Web Exhibition

Vessels is an exhibition that celebrates the traditions and contemporary innovations of the Northwest Coast, Inuit, and Maori cultures. Vessels were used in ceremonies to hold sacred masks and regalia, and as a celebration of food and friendship. Often elaborately decorated, they could be given as important gifts to honoured guests and spoke of the talent and dedication of the artists of the host village.

For the nomadic Inuit, the creation and design of vessels was dictated by necessity and by the need to transport by dogsled. The kudlik (stone lamp) was the one object of stone that was transported from camp to camp. Smaller containers often held shamanic objects, talismans, and amulets for personal safety.

The Maori wakahuia (treasure box) was used to hold the treasures of the chief. A chief's head was very tapu (sacred), and anything he wore on his head was also considered tapu (and which could harm those not of the same rank). So, important ceremonial feathers, combs, ear pendants, and hei tiki were placed in a wakahuia and were then suspended from the rafters in the chief's house to keep these objects out of reach of people, particularly children, and were not to be touched by anyone but the chief himself.  The traditional wakahuia often had carved heads at either end, which they could be hung by.

The Northwest Coast is renowned for the method of construction and decoration of many objects. The fabrication of the bentwood box—a technique of cutting kerfs into wood planks and then steaming and folding the wood into boxes—is unique to the region. Possibly first developed in the Bella Bella region (central coast), the bent box became an industry for this area and the elaborate boxes were both presented as gifts and produced as a trade-item that moved throughout the Northwest Coast before the technique was successfully adapted by artists and designers from other nations. Because the aromatic red cedar used for the boxes was naturally insect-free, the boxes were often used for storage of perishables (food and regalia).  Boxes were also used for cooking—using hot rocks to boil water for shellfish.  The bent box technique was also adapted for ritual burial boxes that were hoisted high into the trees.

The heavy lid of the box both helped the box to be airtight and to serve as the seat for the high-ranking during ceremonies. In some cases these boxes could hold spectacular gifts that would be presented to high-ranking guests.

Larger bowls were used as serving dishes, and during ceremonies that celebrated the presence of precious food sources. Smaller bowls are considered "medicine bowls" and "grease bowls" which would hold the precious eulachon oil (candle-fish: a small smelt-like fish noted for its high oil content and which is revered for its medicinal properties).

Cover WAKAWHENUA vessel sold
Artist: Todd Couper (Ngati Kahungunu)
Area: Medium: Kauri wood, stones
Size: 20 x 10 x 8"
Ref: k41001

A wakahuia is a vessel in which a chief kept his most prized and tapu adornments; this piece also represents a wakahuia that encapsulates the importance of the whenua as a taonga. The strong connection of people to the land is one of a spiritual connection as well as a place of belonging.

There are a lot of present-day issues about land in Aotearoa, which this work represents as that fragment in time. To look through the void is to look ahead to the future and from the back through to the past. The mystical figure of the ruru depicts a kaitiaki whenua, the spiritual caretaker.

placeholder placeholder
1 CANOE bowl with FROG DESIGN sold
Artist: Preston Singletary (Tlingit)
Medium: Slumped and etched glass
Size: 6 x 10 x 8.5"
Ref: w11203
Artist: Todd Couper (Ngati Kahungunu)
Medium: Kauri and totara wood
Size: 5 x 17 x 8"
Ref: k40401

This vessel form is based on the Wakahuia (treasure box). Traditionally, these vessels were to hold the treasures of the chief. A chief' head was very Tapu (sacred), therefore anything he wore on his head was also Tapu and could harm other people who were not of the same rank. Such things as feathers, combs, ear pendants, and Hei Tiki were placed in a Wakahuia and then suspended from the rafters in the chief's house. It was out of reach of people, especially children and was not to be touched by anyone but the chief himself. These Wakahuia had carved heads at either end, which they were hung by, and because they were suspended, the bottom of the vessel was visable, and so were often highly decorated.

The surface pattern on the lid of this work is in the form of two opposing whale heads. Whales, to the Maori, act as Kaitiaki (guardians). The crescent-shaped pattern is called Unaunahi, which describes the fish scales, and the blue colour also references the sea.


3 "cocobowl-low" ulu bowl sold
Artist: Michael Massie (Labrador)
Medium: Sterling silver, cocobolo wood
Size: 3.25 x 3.25 x 4.25"
Ref: lm20803

"In the etching here, I was trying to capture the effects of riveted metal, like on the ships and large oil tanks."

Artist: Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Nga Puhi)
Medium: Ceramic
Size: 9 x 10 x 9"
Ref: k40803
5 KUDLIK sold
Artist: Oviloo Tunnillie (Cape Dorset)
Medium: Serpentine
Size: 2 x 6 x 2"
Ref: q90237
placeholder placeholder
6 EAGLE HUMAN bulged bowl sold
Artist: John Livingston (Kwak-waka'wakw style)
Medium: Red and yellow cedar, operculum shell
Size: 7 x 18 x 12"
Ref: w40913

Bowls decorated with crest designs were both utilitarian and important gifts presented to visiting dignitaries at Potlatches. The size was easily transported home by canoe, the carving and design showed the talent of the resident artists of the host village and the object represented ceremony and the giving of food.

7 WAK-AS (FROG) down bowl
Artist: Wayne Alfred (Kwak-waka'wakw)
Medium: Red cedar
Size: 4 x 6.5 x 6"
Ref: w20502

This bowl was used to carry the Eagle-down to the dancers, who would dance wearing elaborately carved frontlets attached to headdresses, often decorated with ermine pelts and sea lion whiskers. The down would be placed on the top of the headdress clinging to the sea lion whiskers and as the dancer moved forward jerking forward his or her head, the down would float and land on the gathered guests as a sign of welcome and respect.

8 KILLERWHALE bowl and spoon sold
Artist: Stan Bevan (Tahltan Tlingit Tsimshian)
Medium: Alder
Size: 3.25 x 11.75 x 5.5"
Ref: w40716

Artist: Kataraina Hetet (Maori)
Medium: Steel, wire
Size: 10 x 6" unframed
Ref: k40304

Exhibited "Embroidery Guild Exhibition 2003, Harrogate, Yorkshire, UK"

10 FROG bowl
Artist: Floyd Joseph (Coast Salish)
Medium: Red cedar
Size: 6 x 11 x 8"

Ref: x20702
Artist: Ross Kayotak (Iqaluit)
Medium: Copper, ivory
Size: 6 x 6.5" diameter
Ref: j004110

"When I was a kid, I liked to go fishing and caribou hunting with my brother and Grandpa by dog team. One time, it was almost Christmas, me and my brother were playing dog team. My Grandpa was doing fishing nets. He got lots of fish in the nets."

Artist: Keith Kerrigan (Haida)
Medium: Alder
Size: 7.25 x 15 x 9.25"
Ref: w40815
13 NIGHT AND DAY container
Artist: Elsie Klengenberg (Cambridge Bay)
Medium: Silver, ivory
Size: 2.75 x 2" diameter
Ref: j00457
placeholder placeholder

14 EAGLE HUMAN bentwood box
Artist: John Livingston (Kwak-waka'wakw style)
Medium: Red cedar, operculum shell
Size: 20 x 22 x 15"
Ref: x20501

15 "i'm just a figment of his imagination" teapot
Artist: Michael Massie (Labrador)
Medium: Sterling silver, mahogany, caribou bone, horsehair
Size: 8 x 10 x 3.75"
Ref: lm31102

"The most challenging part of this one was the base. Once the design was complete, I had to figure it out in 3-D form and then cut it from one piece of wood. I wanted to get away from the flowing lines and work with a playful image that could represent anything—from a bird to a goofy little creature. I wanted to make something different. While close to the master-drawing, there have been a few changes since then—namely the tail. At first, it was going to be a wooden tail—but the design called for a very slim tail... I figured that people would want to hold it by that...and this worried me. So I decided against this and chose to use horsehair. This way the would be no mistaking the base as the handle! All in all, it was a fun piece that I have wanted to make for a while."

16 PITAU RINGA pot sold
Artist: Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Nga Puhi)
Medium: Clay, raku fired, paua shell inlay
Size: 3 x 4 x 4"
Ref: kx11007

Pitau Ringa is a design representing the ringa (hands) of the clay worker. It retains the spiral in the form of the interlaced three fingered hands.

17 PITAU II Pot sold
Artist: Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Nga Puhi)
Medium: Clay, raku fired, paua shell inlay
Size: 2.5 x 4 x 4"
Ref: kx11008

Pitau is a perforated spiral carving. It is derived from the young circular frond of our tree ferns. As with other carved spiral forms, it signifies latent and potential energy, light and enlightenment.

18 PITAU O TE PO pot
Artist: Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Nga Puhi)
Medium: Clay, wood fire
Size: 5 x 9 x 9"
Ref: kx11001

Pitau o te Po is a contemporary development of an ancient design. The design alludes to the glimmer of light observed occasionally by the children of Papatuanuku and Ranginui (earth mother / sky father). The children (i.e. the Maori Gods) saw the light through the armpits of Papatuanaku, as they lay confined by the embracing parents. This light was the incentive for liberation and growth.

Artist: Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Nga Puhi)
Medium: Burnished clay, raku fired, paua shell inlay
Size: 4.75 x 15 x 9"
Ref: k30501

This vessel acknowledges the brothers, Manumanu and Rangitauwawaru, the founding ancestors of the Te Roroa tribe.

The mana of the brothers is affirmed by the two manaia. Manaia—literally, containing mana—is an element widely used in Maori carving.  The manaia is a symbol of the mana of chieftainship, power, prestige and charisma. It is also used to express spiritual and tapu (sacred) states of humanity. The manaia appear in many forms and there are significant tribal variations. The form however, always is shown in profile and includes eye, mouth, and usually, hand.

Artist: Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Nga Puhi)
Medium: Ceramic
Size: 9 x 15 x 16"
Ref: k40802

"All tribes have taniwha—some arrived in Aotearoa with the migratory waka as guardians and protectors of the deep-sea mariners.

"There are many stories of taniwhu involved with the creation or modification of features in our landscape such as harbours, channels to the sea, and the formation of islands.

"Rangiriri is our highly renowned taniwha of the upper reaches of the northern Wairoa River, just south of Tunatahi (Dargaville). He is a guardian and warns of impending danger or disaster.

"'Hautupua' translates variously as fearsome, remarkable, sea deity, water monster. So, my interpretation of Rangiriri Te Hautupua is 'Rangiriri the Remarkable'."

Artist: Erenora Puketapu-Hetet (Maori)
Medium: Metal wire, paua shell lined with woven stainless steel
Size: 12 x 14" unframed
Ref: k40302
placeholder placeholder
22 SUN AND WHALES bowl sold
Artist: Glen Rabena (Haida style)
Medium: Maple, abalone shell
Size: 6.5 x 13 x 12"
Ref: w30513
23 EAGLE AND ELEMENTS bentwood box sold
Artist: Larry Rosso (Haida Style)
Medium: Red cedar
Size: 17.5 x 24 x 12.75"
Ref: w10302
24 BEAR MOTHER DESIGN platter sold
Artist: Ed Russ (Haida)
Medium: Argillite
Size: 5.5 x 5.25 x 0.75"
Ref: w31102
25 SEAL grease dish sold
Artist: Preseton Singletary (Tlingit)
Medium: Blown and etched glass
Size: 4 x 14.5 x 7"
Ref: x41002

Artist: Preston Singletary (Tlingit)
Medium: Blown and etched glass, cedar bark rope
Size: 5 x 19 x 5"
Ref: w10308

"Soul Catchers are an important subcategory of amulets. Hollow cylinders that are carved in relief and pierced for suspension, almost all are made of bone, which is often said to be the femur of a bear. Those made of bone are now thought to be made only by the Tsimshian but were used by the Tlingit, Haida, and Bella Bella as well.

"Barbeau (1958, p.57) describes soul catchers as 'one of the most potent charms in a medicine bag,' Shamans wore them suspended from their necks, used them to recover souls that had left a patient's body and were thus causing illness. With the aid of chanting and trances, a shaman could locate a soul, induce it to enter the container, hold it there by inserting the cedar bark plugs, and finally returning it to the host to effect a cure. Soul catchers could also be used for blowing out or sucking away disease and evil."

(From Tangible Visions: Northwest Coast Indian Shamanism and Its Art, Allen Wardwell, Monacelli Press, 1996, p. 197)


27 SHARK grease bowl sold
Artist: Terry Starr (Tsimshian)
Medium: Silver birch
Size: 3 x 5.5 x 5"
Ref: w20824

Bowls were used to hold eulachon grease. Eulachon are small smelt-like fish that have extremely high oil content - they can be burned like a candle, and the oil continues to be used medicinally and ceremonially. Some ceremonial halls featured dishes at their entrance where salmon pieces would be offered and dipped into eulachon oil as a greeting and offering to the arriving guests.

28 SHARK grease bowl and EAGLE spoon sold
Artist: Terry Starr (Tsimshian)
Medium: Silver birch
Size: 3 x 5.75 x 5"
Ref: w20825
placeholder placeholder placeholder

29 SEAL bowl sold
Artists: Norman Tait and Lucinda Turner (Nisga'a)
Medium: Cherry wood, operculum shell
Size: 4 x 8 x 4"
Ref: w31101

30 LOON bowl sold
Artist: Glenn Tallio (Helsiak)
Medium: Yellow cedar
Size: 9 x 18 x 7"
Ref: w41005
31 HALIBUT bowl
Artist: Glenn Tallio (Helsiak)
Medium: Yellow cedar
Size: 3 x 19 x 9.25"
Ref: w41006
placeholder placeholder
Artist: Doug Zilkie (Haida style)
Medium: Red and yellow cedar, operculum shell
Size: 26 x 36.5 x 20"
Ref: w30407

Archive Index