An island archipelago officially known as the Republic of Vanuatu, this remote Pacific country is an outpost of Melanesian culture and tradition. Vanuatu was first visited by Europeans in the 17th century but was not settled by them until the late 18th century, when Captain Cook dubbed the islands the New Hebrides. In the 19th century Britain and France took control of the islands under the authority of the British-French Condominium, a unique joint form of government which lasted until 1980, when independence was granted following the violence of the Coconut War. Currently Vanuatu relies heavily on tourism and agriculture for its economic development and also has strong ties with Australia, on whom it relies for aid.
The culture of Vanuatu is deeply traditional and follows the dictates of Melanesian customs as well as the Christianity brought to the islands by missionaries in the 18th century. Contemporary culture on the islands is seen through the lens of these traditional customs, which uphold a strictly patriarchal way of life. Grace Mera Molisa, who was a prominent ni-Vanuatu politician, poet and campaigner for women's rights, was celebrated for her progressive approach to women’s equality on the islands and her literary career which engaged ironically with the nature of post-colonial life.
Literature surrounding the islands is scarce but Steven R. Fischer’s A History of the Pacific Islands offers an introduction to the history of the region. Peter Shaw’s Pacific Island Style reveals the distinctive architecture and design that defines the Pacific Islands and The Lonely Planet Guide to Vanuatu and New Caledonia offers a comprehensive guide to for visitors to the region. The best fiction from Vanuatu is Judy Nunn’s Pacific, which uses the islands as the setting for its epic tale of war and romance. The islands also feature heavily in the BBC documentary South Pacific.