Society

The Culture Of Tuvalu

Coconut is an important ingredient in the Tuvaluan cuisine.

The Polynesian island country of Tuvalu, located in the Pacific Ocean, hosts a population of only around 10,640 inhabitants. Tuvaluans of Polynesian and Micronesian descent account for 96% and 4% of the country’s population, respectively. Christianity is the religion of the vast majority of Tuvaluans with 98.4% of the population adhering to various Protestant Christian denominations. Tuvaluan and English are the official languages of the country and the Ikiribati language is spoken on the island of Nui.

5. Cuisine of Tuvalu

Coconut and fish are the staples of the Tuvaluan diet. Coconut trees grow in plenty in the tropical environs of the island country. Coconut flesh, water, and milk are all used in preparing Tuvaluan dishes. Swamp taro or pulaka and rice are important sources of carbohydrates in the diet. Bananas and breadfruit are also widely consumed. Seafood adds the necessary proteins to the diet. It includes a variety of fishes, coconut crab, seabirds, etc. Pork is also another source of animal protein.

4. Tuvaluan Literature and Arts

The tradition of written literature is almost non-existent in the country. However, Tuvalu has a rich traditional art and craft scene. Handicrafts in the country are produced using cowrie and other shells. Tuvaluan women are experts at crochet work. The country’s artists have recently focussed on the issue of climate change, a raging issue in the country. Tuvalu is one of the countries that are most threatened by rising sea levels.

3. Performance Arts in Tuvalu

Folk songs and dances of the country focussed on the indigenous animistic religious beliefs and magic. They were highly suppressed by the Christian missionaries during colonial rule. However, they experienced a revival post-independence. Dancing songs are Tuvalu’s most common traditional songs. Fakanau (a praise song and dance), fakaseasea (a dance performed by young unmarried women) and fatele are popular dances of Tuvalu. Folk costumes like the te titi tao (a traditional skirt), teuga saka (traditional tops), armbands, headbands, jewelry, etc., are adorned by the dancers during such performances. Te Vaka is an Oceanic music group of the country which performs original Pacific music.

2. Sports in Tuvalu

Ano and kilikiti are two popular traditional sports played in the country. The former is a form of localized volleyball while the latter is similar to cricket. Lance throwing, foot racing, wrestling, fencing, etc., are some of the other Tuvaluan traditional sports. Foreign games like basketball, handball, rugby, etc., are also played in the country. Football is played at both the club and national levels.

1. Life in the Tuvaluan Society

The Tuvaluan society generally believes in the equality of the genders. However, women are more associated with household chores and infant care than men. Women do work outside their homes to participate in economic activities like reef fishing and collecting, harvesting some crops, and weaving. Men carry out the more labor-intensive activities like open sea and lagoon fishing, coconut and palm gathering, etc. Men also enjoy most of the higher ranks in politics, administration, and civil services.

Marriages are widely prevalent in society. Marriages are based on both personal choice and kinship alliance. Different tribes have their own marriage norms and preferences for endogamy or exogamy. However, marriages between relatives are prohibited. Interactions between cousins of the opposite sex are constrained in the Tuvaluan society. In the past, they were expected to avoid each other's presence. Even today, such pairs must avoid speaking unless absolutely necessary. Polygyny, although common in the past, is now uncommon. Today, Christianity influences the attitudes of the people towards marriages. Divorces and remarriages are also on the rise.

The size of household units ranges from nuclear to extended, depending on tribal norms and rules. Usually, the residence is patrilocal. However, matrilocal residence is also common among some tribes. The eldest man or woman usually has the highest authority in the household. Traditionally, sons inherit the property and other family assets with the eldest sons being given the highest preference.

Childcare is usually ensured by the mother and other female relatives including female siblings of the infant. Education is valued but school dropouts are common among the poor.

Social status plays an important role in Tuvaluan society. Persons of a lower status are expected to maintain a certain respectable distance from those belonging to a higher status. Positive politeness is valued in conversations.

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