Dr. Barbara Meier (Münster)


Who are the Bulsa?


If you are a European scientist with the intention of doing field-research in a remote place in the African savannah, you tend to attract people's attention, to say the least. A number of people will find such an endeavour strange enough to ask for details. Having lost all trust in the geographical knowledge of many compatriots, I normally begin with a rough description of where the African continent is to be found on the globe. Even most seemingly educated people shrug their shoulders when it comes to a place called "Ghana". "Where is Ghana?" If I do not have much time to chat I normally explain that Bulsa live somewhere close to the sahel-region. The conversation dies out very easily after that. But normally, both privately and professionally, I try to convey as much information about the diversity of Bulsa-people, culture, religion and environment as I can. Being a serious Buluk fan I can really keep going on for some time. And when I teach at the University there is hardly ever a lesson in which my students do not get at least some information about some little aspect of the Bulsa-culture. My ambition is to reduce the notion of exotic strangeness that goes along almost naturally with anything that has to do with Africa. Sometimes I think that all efforts are rather futile. I once gave a talk at a Volkshochschule (adult education). I had talked about Buluk, the seasons, traditional religion, naawen and teng, the concept of ancestors, explained how com-pounds are composed, what the daily chores of a man or woman are, how people meet at funerals or on market days, etc. Can you imagine how stupefied I was when an elderly lady asked how Bulsa-people lived without religion?! I normally manage to set people's minds thinking when I ask them to imagine that all of a sudden the doorbell rings and there stands a black woman asking them to become part of their family. I tell them this is more or less exactly what I did in Sandema-Longsa and I was welcomed and invited to stay as long as I chose to. However, ignorance is not an entirely German character streak. While I was planning to travel to Accra during my stay in Sandema in 1988/89 someone (I think he was not from Tankunsa) asked me to greet my parents (thinking Accra was part of felik-teng). Where is felik-teng anyway? Years later, in 1994, I did some research on migration from UER to Accra and Tema. In a drinking spot in Nungua I chatted with a Ga-man. I told him that I would be travelling to Sandema within a couple of days. He asked me where that place was and I told him it was near Bolgatanga and Navrongo. His eyebrows went up with surprise and he asked me, "Bolgatanga? Why don't you stay in Ghana?"