The Block

The frigate bird, indigenous to the Island of Nauru, provides the central theme for the Nauru block, which was designed and crafted primarily by Linda Bitterman. This bird, an agile flyer also called the Man-of-War, has an impressive eight-foot wingspan and great manoeuvrability. Males sport beautiful scarlet breasts, while those of the female are white. Frigate birds play a large role in the economic success of Nauru. For years their phosphate-rich droppings have been mined and sold to make fertilizer; an unusual export that had made Nauru the Pacific’s richest island. The block’s background fabric is a reflection of traditional island crafts, such as mat, screen- and basket-weaving. The majestic frigate bird soaring above the tranquil waters is wreathed by silk tomano flowers that represent not only Nauru’s national flower, but the fragile and delicate state of the island itself


North coast of Nauru
The North Coast
A warrior from the 1880s
The site of secondary mining of Phosphate rock in Nauru, 2007. Photo- Lorrie Graham (10729889683)
Mining in Nauru

Cultural Profile

Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island, is located in Micronesia in the South Pacific. The island has been an independent republic since 1968. Measuring only 20 km2 in area, it is one of the smallest countries in the world. Its central plateau, which covers a large portion of the island, was created through years of excessive mining, a practice that has led environmentalist to predict dire ecological consequences for the region. The fertile coastal area, where the island’s inhabitants are concentrated, is small and almost all the island’s food is imported due to the lack of available agricultural land.  Nauruans comprise more than half the population and Nauruan (a distinct Pacific Island tongue) is the official language, although English is widely used as well.

Maintaining a stable population is important for a tiny country like Nauru. After the 1920s influenza epidemic killed almost a third of its citizens, concerned authorities encouraged the people to bring their population count to at least 1500. When the 1500th baby, Eidegenegen Eidagaruwo, was born, her birthday (October 26) was designated a national holiday called Angam Day. Angam is a Nauruan word with several meanings, including jubilation, celebration, to triumph over all hardships, to reach a goal or coming home. Hardships during WWII once again caused the population to drop drastically and the island’s pressing need to increase its population to 1500 was met with the birth of Bethel Enproe Adam, born March 31, 1949. Angam Day was celebrated again and has been ever since, although October 26th remains the official holiday. Nauru’s population has continued to grow and today the current count is about 10,000.

The phosphate resources of the island are now depleted, and the Trust fund put together by the State is all but exhausted. The country went from having one of the highest GDP in the world to one of the lowest. Much of the population is now unemployed and the tiny nation is largely dependent on foreign aid as well as a land lease paid by the Australian government.

Nauru’s close-knit community is built and governed on the foundation of 12 traditional clan lines, each of which is represented on the national flag’s twelve-pointed star. The people are renowned for their hospitality and friendliness and no visitor would be among strangers for very long. Sadly though, Nauru is considered to be one of the most Westernized of the Pacific islands and its traditional culture has all but vanished. Fishing however still follows a traditional method, which has been preserved by trained Fregattvoegeln. Music and dance still rank among the most popular art forms.

Nauruans only began coming to Canada during the last decade and to date their numbers remain very small.


Sponsor: South Shore Quilters Guild, Quebec | Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons