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Culture of Tuvalu


The traditional buildings of Tuvalu used plants and trees from the native broadleaf forest, including timber from: Pouka, (Hernandia peltata); Ngia or Ingia bush, (Pemphis acidula); Miro, (Thespesia populnea); Tonga, (Rhizophora mucronata); Fau or Fo fafini, or woman's fibre tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus).and fibre from: coconut; Ferra, native fig (Ficus aspem); Fala, screw pine or Pandanus. The buildings were constructed without nails and were lashed and tied together with a plaited sennit rope that was handmade from dried coconut fibre.


Following contact with Europeans iron products were used including nails and corrugated iron roofing material. Modern building in Tuvalu are constructed from imported building materials including imported timber and concrete.

The church and community buildings are painted with white paint that is known as lase, which is made by burning a large amount of dead coral with firewood. The whitish powder that is the result is mixed with water and painted on the buildings.

Art of Tuvalu

The women of Tuvalu use cowrie and other shells in traditional handicrafts.The artistic traditions of Tuvalu have traditionally been expressed in the design of clothing and traditional handicrafts such as the decoration of mats and fans.

 The material culture of Tuvalu uses traditional design elements in artefacts used in every-day life such as the design of canoes and fish hooks made from traditional materials. The design of women's skirts (titi), tops (teuga saka), headbands, armbands, and wristbands, which continue to be used in performances of the traditional dance songs of Tuvalu, represents contemporary Tuvaluan art and design.

Dance and music

The traditional music of Tuvalu consists of a number of dances, including fatele, fakanau and fakaseasea. The fatele, in its modern form, is performed at community events and to celebrate leaders and other prominent individuals, such as the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in September 2012. The Tuvaluan style can be described "as a musical microcosm of Polynesia, where contemporary and older styles co-exist".


The cuisine of Tuvalu is based on the staple of coconut and the many species of fish found in the ocean and lagoons of the atolls. Desserts made on the islands include coconut and coconut milk, instead of animal milk. The traditional foods eaten in Tuvalu are pulaka, taro, bananas, breadfruit and coconut.

 Tuvaluans also eat seafood, including coconut crab and fish from the lagoon and ocean. A traditional food source is seabirds (taketake or black noddy and akiaki or white tern), with pork being eaten mostly at fateles (or parties with dancing to celebrate events).

Pulaka is the main source for carbohydrates. Seafood provides protein. Bananas and breadfruit are supplemental crops. Coconut is used for its juice, to make other beverages and to improve the taste of some dishes.

A 1560-square-metre pond was built in 1996 on Vaitupu to sustain aquaculture in Tuvalu.

Flying fish are caught as a source of food and as an exciting activity, using a boat, a butterfly net and a spotlight to attract the flying fish.


The traditional community system still survives to a large extent on Tuvalu. Each family has its own task, or salanga, to perform for the community, such as fishing, house building or defence. The skills of a family are passed on from parents to children.

Most islands have their own fusi, community owned shops similar to convenience stores, where canned foods and bags of rice can be purchased. Goods are cheaper and fusis give better prices for their own produce.

Another important building is the falekaupule or maneapa the traditional island meeting hall, where important matters are discussed and which is also used for wedding celebrations and community activities such as a fatele involving music, singing and dancing.

 Falekaupule is also used as the name of the council of elders – the traditional decision making body on each island. Under the Falekaupule Act, Falekaupule means "traditional assembly in each island...composed in accordance with the Aganu of each island". Aganu means traditional customs and culture.

Sport and leisure

A traditional sport played in Tuvalu is kilikiti, which is similar to cricket. A popular sport specific to Tuvalu is Ano, which is played with two round balls of 12 cm (5 in) diameter.

 Ano is a localised version of volleyball, in which the two hard balls made from pandanus leaves are volleyed at great speed with the team members trying to stop the Ano hitting the ground. Traditional sports in the late 19th century were foot racing, lance throwing, quarterstaff fencing and wrestling, although the Christian missionaries disapproved of these activities.

The sports now played by Tuvaluans include kilikiti, Ano, football, volleyball,handball, basketball, rugby union and Futsal are also played in the country as recreational activities. Weightlifting is a popular sport in Tuvalu. At the 2013 Pacific Mini Games, Tuau Lapua Lapua won Tuvalu's first ever gold medal in major sporting competition in the men's 62 kilogram snatch. (He also won bronze in the clean and jerk, and obtained the silver medal overall for the combined event.)

Tuvalu participates in the Oceanian Futsal Championship. Tuvalu also has sports organisations for badminton, tennis, table tennis and volleyball. A major sporting event is the "Independence Day Sports Festival" held annually on 1 October. The most important sports event within the country is arguably the Tuvalu Games, which are held yearly since 2008.

Football in Tuvalu is played at club and national team level. The Tuvalu national football team trains at the Tuvalu Sports Ground in Funafuti and competes in the Pacific Games. The Tuvalu National Football Association is an associate member of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and is seeking membership in FIFA.

Tuvalu first participated in the Pacific Games in 1978 and in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, when a weightlifter attended the games held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Two table tennis players attended the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England; Tuvalu entered competitors in shooting, table tennis and weightlifting at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia;

 and three athletes participated in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, entering the discus, shot put and weightlifting events.Tuvaluan athletes also participated in the men's and women's 100-metre sprints at the 2009 World Athletic Championships and 2011 World Athletic Championships. At the 2011 Pacific Games held in New Caledonia, Tuau Lapua Lapua won the first medals for Tuvalu when he won two silver medals and one bronze medal in weightlifting events. Okilani Tinilau represented Tuvalu at the 2013 World Championships in the men's 100-metre sprint.

The Tuvalu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (TASNOC) was recognised as a National Olympic Committee in July 2007.Tuvalu entered the Olympic Games for the first time at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China, with a weightlifter and two athletes in the men's and women's 100-metre sprints. A team with athletes in the same events represented Tuvalu at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

In 2013, Tuvalu was granted Associate status in the Oceania Continent Handball Federation by the International Handball Federation.