Flag of Tuvalu

Tuvalu (/tˈvɑːl/ (About this soundlisten) too-VAH-loo or /ˈtvəl/ TOO-və-loo), formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. It comprises three reef islands and six true atolls spread out between the latitude of to 10° south and longitude of 176° to 180°, west of the International Date Line. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. Tuvalu has a population of about 10,837 people (2012). The total land area of the islands of Tuvalu is 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi).

The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians. The pattern of settlement that is believed to have occurred is that the Polynesians spread out from Samoa and Tonga into the Tuvaluan islands, with Tuvalu providing a stepping stone to migration into the Polynesian Outlier communities in Melanesia and Micronesia.

In 1568 Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to sail through the archipelago. In 1568 during his first voyage he sighted Nui and during his second voyage in 1595 he sailed past Niulakita. In 1819 the island of Funafuti was named Ellice's Island; the name Ellice was applied to all nine islands. The islands were declared a British Protectorate by Captain Gibson of HMS Curacoa in 1892; then administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories; and from 1916 to 1974 as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.

The result of the Ellice Islands self-determination referendum, 1974 was that the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on 1 January 1976 and the separate British colonies of Kiribati and Tuvalu came into existence. Tuvalu became fully independent within the Commonwealth on 1 October 1978. On 17 September 2000 Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations.

Selected article

A Tuvaluan dancer at Auckland's Pasifika Festival

The traditional music of Tuvalu consists of dances, including fatele, fakanau and fakaseasea.

The modern fatele involves the women on their feet, dancing in lines; with the men facing the dancers, sitting on the floor beating the time with their hands on the mats or on wooden boxes, such as a tea chest.

While Tuvaluan songs convey a dramatic story, the concentrated song structure often omits key events in the story. An example of a pre-missionary song is Te foe, te foe kia atua, which is a fakanau from Niutao recorded by Gerd Koch. (More...)

Te foe, te foe kia atua. Te foe, te foe kia tagata. Pili te foe, manu te foe! E, taku foe! E, taku foe! The paddle, the paddle of the gods. The paddle, the paddle of men. Take the paddle, seize the paddle! Oh my paddle! Oh my paddle!

Selected biography

Asenate Manoa (Nancy Manoa) was a Tuvaluan athlete who represented Tuvalu at the 2008 Summer Olympics, at the 2009 World Championships & 2011 World Championships and at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Her event was the 100 metres sprint. Manoa then became a powerlifter and won a bronze medal at the Pacific Games 2015 in the 72 kg category. Manoa was born 23 May 1992 on Kioa island in Fiji; Kioa was purchased by settlers from Tuvalu, who migrated from Tuvalu between 1947 and 1983.


Tuvalu · Island countries · Polynesia ·

Selected picture

A Tuvaluan meal

The cuisine of Tuvalu is based on the staple of coconut and the many species of fish found in the ocean and the lagoons of the atolls of Tuvalu. Pork is eaten mostly at fateles (or parties with dancing to celebrate special events). Pulaka, (Cyrtosperma merkusii), or swamp taro, is an important source of carbohydrates. Rice now forms an important part of the diet. Coconut is used in different forms with coconut water, coconut milk and the flesh of the coconut being used to flavour dishes. Various desserts made on the islands include coconut and coconut milk, instead of animal milk.

Did you know?

DYK Question Mark Right
  • A traditional sport played in Tuvalu is kilikiti, which is similar to cricket.

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