Culture

Atoa Delemeni
Nanumaga Atoll, February 2001 - Atoa Delemeni proudly sits at the entrance to his traditional house.
Source: Peter Bennetts

In the South Pacific, cultural boundaries between Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia are not precise, and there are few shared customs and practices between the racial groups of these areas. The culture of Tuvalu is very similar to that practised in Samoa and Tonga.

Traditionally, a system of chieftainship existed in Tuvalu. The chief of each clan maintained peace and harmony through positive values and practices handed down through generations, and everyone had duties and responsibilities. The chiefs achieved their position through merit. They were responsible for clan welfare and were custodians of the environment.

There is generally only one village on each island in Tuvalu. Often the village is divided in two 'sides' to promote a competitive spirit in village activities. Communities on all islands are very close knit and self-contained, and for this reason the village goals can only be reached by working through accepted traditional channels and by observing and respecting customary practices.

Land has never been bought or sold in Tuvalu; it can be exchanged or gifted, but not sold. Europeans introduced money and a commercial system to Tuvalu, leading to the saying: 'money is for palagi (Europeans) and land is for Tuvaluans'.

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Chief of Niutao Atoll, Malaki Mauga