The coconut has always been an important part of Tuvaluan culture. In some cases it has been crucial in order to ensure peace and order on the island state. Yesterday, we got to hear the story about how the coconut can work as a peace negotiator on Tuvalu and why the colours of the island Nukufetau (one of the nine islands of Tuvalu) are red and white.
A long long time ago, the Chief (Aliki in Tuvaluan) discovered, to his great fear, that a warrior had entered the shores of his beloved island Nukufetau. The warrior, with his red and white clothes and headwear, was terrifying and like nothing the king had ever seen before. The Chief was nervous. He would rather avoid any trouble on the island. The warrior looked dangerous, but the Chief had an idea. The warrior was probably thirsty as he must have travelled far. So the Chief decided to send his two daughters with a grilled coconut each to meet the red and white warrior.
When the warrior saw the two beautiful girls coming towards him, he removed his headwear and joined them to meet the Chief. It turned out that the warrior was named Laka and had come all the way from Tonga. His father, the king of Tonga, had too many children, and had sent his sons out to find other islands to rule. That was what happened. Laka became part of the island council and ruled on Nukufetau until he died in a battle on Nui some years later.
And this was the story about how the Chief of Nukufetau avoided a bloodily meeting with Laka and how the colours of Nukufetau became red and white. Everything thanks to a quick-witted Chief and two coconuts.
Maybe we all can learn some lessons from this story…
(The story was told us by the secretary for the elders council (the Falekaupule) on Nukufetau and is retold as I remember it).