24 07 2008

Tuvalu independence issue

Tuvalu, Scott 29, 1976, 28mm x 45mm

Here we have a map stamp which depicts almost pure ocean – only 300 square kilometers of the approximately 200000 shown here given over to solid ground, the rest of it being the South Pacific. Or, viewed another way, it depicts an actual map being torn in two, with the background the color of parchment rather than the usual ocean blue. The northern half of the map shows the mainly Micronesian Gilbert Islands, which is now part of Kiribati, the southern half shows the islands making up Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands) with its Polynesian majority.

Why the split? To most people in the rest of the world, both Polynesians and Micronesians (and probably Melanesians too) would be lumped together in the category “people from the remote South Pacific” and that would suffice. Originally, the racial and classification was devised by the French ethnographer Jules-Sebastian-César Dumont d’Urville in the nineteenth century based on his observations. Recently, however, mitochondrial and Y chromosomal DNA analysis has been used to investigate how much of the similarities among these groups can be attributed to common ancestry and how much of the differences to isolation of populations.

At any rate, the process of separation between the two nations seems not to have been extremely acrimonious.




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