Kiribati’s Incredible Culture: Traditional Paintings and Architecture

Kiribati has one of the most colorful and fascinating cultures in the world. It’s full of customs and traditions that date back hundreds of years, giving it a distinctive feel that’s quite unlike anything else you’ll find in today’s world. While there are plenty of interesting aspects to Kiribati’s culture, one that stands out above all others is its traditional artistry, which can be seen in everything from its architecture to its paintings. If you’re interested in finding out more about these traditional arts, keep reading for an explanation of what makes them so fascinating.


The first thing you’ll notice about Kiribati architecture is the use of traditional materials like wood and thatch. The second thing you’ll notice is the stilt houses, which are built to protect against flooding. And the third thing you’ll notice is the beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings of these houses. But there’s more to Kiribati culture than just architecture. There are also the languages, music, dance, and food. All of these elements come together to create a culture that is truly unique and incredible.

Kiribati languagesMost people in Kiribati speak I-Kiribati, an Austronesian language closely related to those spoken in some other Pacific nations. English is also commonly spoken, so while visitors may not be able to converse with everyone they meet, it shouldn’t be difficult to get by with English alone. Kiribati musicEven though there aren’t any indigenous musical instruments, traditional dancing is very common throughout all of Kiribati. The most popular dances are performed as social events or celebrations rather than purely for entertainment purposes.

Local I-Kiribati Cuisine

The food in Kiribati is incredible! I had the chance to try some traditional dishes while I was there, and they were all so delicious. The local cuisine is a mix of seafood, fruits, and vegetables, all cooked in unique ways. I was also able to try some of the traditional paintings and architecture while I was there. The colors and designs are so beautiful and really give you a sense of the culture. Overall, I had an amazing time exploring Kiribati and its incredible culture!

I was able to try some of these delicious dishes while I was in Kiribati. To start off, I tried konjo or dried coconut with sea salt and peppers. It’s a popular street food there, but it’s also used as a sauce for many other local dishes. It’s very healthy because it contains less oil than other sauces and you can easily make it at home. Next up, I had a wonderful pork dish called paleko kekeke that consisted of ground pork wrapped in banana leaves. These days bananas aren’t grown much on the island anymore, but back when they were more common this dish was served often. And finally, I tasted fish from the lagoon called kukurururu. It tastes almost like shrimp or lobster and is served raw which helps keep its freshness intact (something you don’t see often).

I was also able to see many traditional paintings while I was there. Many of them are made with a base called tuna, which is a red clay that’s mixed with water then applied to a sheet of sago palm. The designs can vary greatly based on where they were painted and who painted them. When you look at each painting you get a sense of what that area is like, or perhaps what it once was like if its been abandoned. A lot of my favorite paintings are those created by some of the traditional elders before they passed away. They did so much to preserve Kiribati’s history through their art, it’s very beautiful to see what they were able to create!

Life in Anutan

One of the most remote places on Earth is Anuta. It is also one of the most beautiful. The people who live here are some of the most friendly and welcoming you will ever meet. They are quick to smile and always willing to help. The architecture of the island reflects a more simple life with more time for things like dance, music, storytelling, and other creative endeavors. One of the most popular art forms in Kiribati is painting traditional bark cloth called tapa. A typical design on tapa features patterns in red and black representing waves, animals or plants that grow in abundance around Kiribati’s outer islands. These designs are painted using dye made from ground up seashells mixed with water that has been boiled over an open fire until it turns black.

One of my most memorable experiences in Kiribati was one day we visited a remote village on another island. While there, I happened to see a man with some barkcloth designs. He was not willing to sell them so I asked him if he would draw me a couple of his paintings. He happily agreed and after drawing one or two designs he then pulled out some paper and drew some more that had never been painted onto any tapas before. After that, several people came up with their own drawings which they allowed me to take photos of, so long as I promised to send them back when I returned home. A month later after returning home, with all my photos safely stored on an external hard drive, I sent everyone their pictures using Facebook messenger.


Every October, the people of Kiribati celebrate their culture with a festival called Te Maeva Nui. During this time, traditional paintings and architecture are on display for everyone to enjoy. There are also performances of traditional dance and music, as well as feasts of delicious local food. It’s a great time to be in Kiribati and learn about the unique culture of this amazing country!

As with many Pacific cultures, much of Kiribati’s traditional art is made from colourful shells. These items were used for ceremonies or could be a form of currency in trade between villages. The most impressive examples are large, geometric sculptures called tifaifai. They were created to bring prestige to a village and honour its ancestors. On Te Maeva Nui, these giant creations can be seen standing in front of community buildings such as schools or churches. With their amazing colours and interesting designs, they truly are stunning works of art!

One of Kiribati’s most unique cultural traditions is its marriage ceremony. Known as kawa, it isn’t just a ritual performed by two people in love. Instead, it’s a traditional event that can last for weeks! During kawa, everyone in a community is expected to join in on festivities that can include singing, dancing and feasting. An older woman performs all of these duties for a young couple during their wedding. She even helps them select gifts to give each other during their special occasion! Because kawa is such an important celebration, all members of Kiribati are involved in helping with preparations from start to finish.


The music of Kiribati is Polynesian in origin, and includes both vocal and instrumental pieces. Traditional instruments include the nose flute, which is popular among the islanders of Kiribati. The nose flute is made out of bamboo, and has a unique sound that is unlike any other instrument. The music of Kiribati is also characterized by its use of drums, which are used to keep rhythm during dances and ceremonies.

Today, modern music has infiltrated much of Kiribati’s culture. The younger generation is keen on rap, hip-hop, rock, R&B and reggae. Some musicians have even mixed traditional sounds with newer ones to create new genres. An example of such a musician is Iritana White, who’s been compared to well-known Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue for her catchy tunes and powerful voice.


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