The island nation of Kiribati consists of 32 atolls and one raised coral island. The colonisation era of the 18th and 19th centuries introduced the island to European powers, including the British who eventually colonised the islands. During WWII, some of the islands were occupied by Japan, with some of the bloodiest Pacific battles recorded in the Tarawa Atoll. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979.Climate change will have a devastating impact on Kiribati, with the country expected to beamong the first to be completely submerged as a result of rising sea levels. Today, the Kiribati government is negotiating with neighbouring countries to plan for an uncertain future.
Traditional culture holds song and dance in high regard. Kiribati dance is particularly noted for its unique qualities, with its movements said to be similar to the movements of the native frigate bird. Kiribati martial arts is also noted as being unique to the country and has been preserved by having been passed through the generations and is steeped in beliefs of spirits of ancestral warriors.
Kiribati life and culture has been extensively explored by writers. Edwardo Carlyon Eliot's Broken Atoms is an autobiographical work of his observations as Commissioner of Kiribati & Tuvalu 1913-1920.Sir Arthur Grimble's books A Pattern of Islands and Return to the Islands discusses his time working in the British colonial service in Kiribati.Robert Louis Stevenson writes about his travels in Kiribati in In the South Seas. The Book of Barnababy by H.C. and H.E. Maude takes a devastating look at the indigenous people's forced abandonment of their island. Tony and Joan Whincup's Akekeia! Traditional Dance in Kiribati specifically explores the rich dance tradition. The documentary Country Less Travelled Kiribati is a fascinating report of local culture.
Teresia Teaiwa, a poet of Kiribati descent, is considered one of Kiribati's living national icons. Her celebrated work Searching for Nei Nim'anoa is a collection of poems that explores the writer's complex search for identity, her ethnic heritage being a combination of African-American, Banaban and Gilbertese.