Originally colonised by settlers from neighbouring Polynesian islands, Tuvalu, then called the Ellice Islands, became a British protectorate in 1877. After a century of British colonial rule, Tuvalu gained independence in 1978 whilst remaining a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth.
Tuvalu is composed of nine islands, and is the third-least populous nation in the world with a population of just 10,544. The atoll of Funafuti is the capital of Tuvalu. Along with other low-lying islands in the Pacific that are particularly threatened by rising sea-levels, Tuvalu is a strong proponent of international climate change legislation. In addition, as Tuvalu lacks fresh water sources, it is heavily reliant on desalination plants and rainwater collection.
The culture of Tuvalu is predominantly Polynesian and shares many characteristics with its neighbouring islands, especially Samoa. Tuvalu has a rich tradition of interweaving music with dance, the best-known of which is called fatele. Tuvalu's older traditional dances of fakanau and fakaseasea are, however, declining in popularity amongst a younger generation.
Tuvalu has a long-established tradition of storytelling about the origins and history of the islands. The legend of the Caves of Nanumanga that told of a 'large house under the sea' gained international attention when a scuba diving expedition indeed discovered a deep underwater cave that appeared to have been inhabited. A History of the Pacific Islands provides a good overview of the history and migratory relations that have shaped the culture of Tuvalu. In Pacific Worlds, published in 2012, Matt Matsuda takes a comprehensive look at the history, culture, and contemporary issues that have defined and continue to connect the nations of the Pacific. Tuvalu's rich artistic tradition, which is derived from a melding of Polynesian and Micronesian influences, is explored in The Pacific Arts of Polynesia and Micronesia.