A cross between volleyball and murderball: Te ano, the national game of Tuvalu

A cross between volleyball and murderball: Te ano, the national game of Tuvalu

Te ano – a little like volleyball, a little like murderball – is the national game of Tuvalu, played by people of all ages and genders. Here, Pacific Cultures Curator Rachel Yates explains the rules.

Te ano (which literally translates as ‘the ball’) consists of two teams who stand facing each other on a malae (meeting ground or playing field). A designated area has been marked out for the game to be played in. The bulk of the team is called the vaka – they stand in rows behind two central players on their team, the alovaka (captain) and the tino pukepuke (catcher).

Simultaneously, usually on the call of an elder spectator, both tino pukepuke of each team throw an ano to their alovaka, who in turn bats it towards the other team. The receiving vaka have to keep the ano off the ground and try to bat the ano back to the tino pukepuke who can then reset and throw the ball to the alovaka to repeat the move until a team drops the ano. Teams score points when the opposing team cannot keep the ano off the ground.

As there are two ano moving about at any one time, the game is known to be fast and very exciting to watch. The only person allowed to catch the ball is the tino pukepuke and players in the vaka try to hit the ano back to their tino pukepuke as fast as possible to set up their alovaka’s hit, who tries to target weaker players in the opposite team. The first team to ten points wins.

On the Royal Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Tuvalu, the Commonwealth’s smallest nation, and while there, William played a game of te ano with locals.

A ball made of weaved Pandanus leaf
Ano (gaming ball), Tuvalu, maker unknown. Gift of L Geursen, 1991. Te Papa (FE008800)

The Pacific Cultures Collection at Te Papa has collected various ano from Tuvalu, including circular shaped ano made of kie (pandanus) that would have been used in a game of te ano. Ano are woven by men and women who use three strips of kie to weave a core followed by an outer layer.  They are made of various shapes, weight, and sizes depending on the players’ intended to use the ano. They are filled with a mixture of things including old leaves, the husk of the drinking nut, pieces of coconut shell, and small stones.


Koch, G. (1961). The material culture of Tuvalu. Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific.

1 Comment

  1. Is a display game at Te Papa in order?

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