Some considerations about Bulsa History, our main feature (Ghanatta Ayaric)


Bulsa reading Buluk

Have you, like me, also often wondered when and how Bulsa society started, what gave birth to Bulsa traditions, and the customs we practise today? Have you ever asked yourself what Bulsa society was like a little more than a hundred years ago, in the second half of the 19th century, shortly before the British established the Gold Coast as a Protectorate and later turned the North of the country into The Northern Territories? I wish I had access to more comprehensive documented sources of information on Bulsa history, society and culture in the form of archival documents, pictures and archeological material.

I have heard a few things about Bulsa history, passed down to my generation by word of mouth from the generation before me, but these don’t go far back enough as to give me an idea of how Bulsa society evolved into its present day form. I have also read the works of Kröger and Schott, the two most reliable and comprehensive documented authorities on Bulsa culture and society today. Their work has filled gaps that would otherwise have grown wider with the passing of time, and left me wondering even more about my cultural roots as a person called a Bulsa.

The curious mind, hungry for more knowledge about Bulsa history, is often confronted with questions to which it finds no satisfactory answers and which it may never find: Who were the people living in present day Bulsaland before Atuga? Who exactly were Atuga and Agbiiroa? Where did they come from, why did they leave where they came from? Why do we call ourselves Bulsa, the nearly 100,000 inhabitants of the 13 villages of the combined north and south Bulsa districts, and, by historical and linguistic extension, of the inhabitants of Biuk (Kassena-Nankanni District), Kategra (N.R.) and Kunkwa (N.R.)? Where exactly in present day Bulsa was the first Bulsa settlement? Did our ancestors engage in other activities apart from hunting, partial fishing and subsistence farming? What was the nature of their relations with their immediate neighbours, who I guess were, as they still are today, the Kassena, Nankanni, Mamprusi, Koma and Sissala? How was Bulsa society organized? Who were the leaders? What were the criteria for a leadership role? A large household, property, wisdom, bravery, age, all these taken together?

Where can we find the answers to these questions?

(a) Documented materials as gathered from the national archives are still inconclusive when it comes to our past and the history of Bulsa as I wish I knew it. In the big archives containing material about Bulsa history there is nearly nothing to be found on the period before 1900, and the few data available refer only to events important to the British colonialists. Nevertheless, they should be made known to interested literate Bulsa who don’t have endless time to spend in the public archives studying dusty and worn out files. BULUK 7 has started to analyse and publish a few of these historical data for its readership in articles about Atuga, the “Colonial Officers and Bulsa Chiefs”, former means of transport and the first Bulsa schools on the basis of material from the archives of Sandema Old Primary and Wiaga St. Francis Primary School.

(b) Is there anything new to squeeze out of our older generation and its oral traditions both of which are dying out? The information that comes from members of the older generation is partial and difficult to verify as it is. How much harder will it be to collect and verify oral traditions once members of the older generation pass into the next world? Therefore, our Bulsa readers are encouraged to interview the older members of their families and record past episodes from their youth or past events told them by their fathers or grandfathers. Our journal is open for the publication of interesting and/or important events.

(c) The last chance of uncovering and deciphering bits and pieces of our history seems to lie in archeological excavations and research. If the results of archaeological research are able to reconstruct the past of human history dating back to the Stone Age, two and a half million years ago, it should be able to uncover significant aspects of a people’s history covering the last two hundred years! It is my hope that our specialists in Archaeology, Drs. Caesar Apentiik and Clement Apaak, as well as upcoming Bulsa archaeologists, will come to our rescue in this historical matter and gargantuan task (thanks to former Attorney-General Martin Amidu for popularizing the word “gargantuan”).

It is also our hope that the excavations at Yikpabongo, only about 30 km away from the Bulsa/Koma tribal border, carried out by archaeologists of the University of Ghana (Legon), will yield results that will be helpful in reconstructing the beginnings of Bulsa history.

In its column on “History” BULUK 7 has tried to give a short overview of our current knowledge about some selected subjects of Bulsa history. It is our hope that they are read with a critical mind and that they may encourage readers to correct our texts and add further data obtained through their own research.


New Tendencies in editing BULUK 7 (Franz Kröger)

In many aspects BULUK 7 differs from the preceding editions. While a great majority of the articles of the former issues were written by the two editors, more and more contributions have been submitted to the editors of BULUK 7 by educated Bulsa from the Bulsa Districts, other parts of Ghana and the Diaspora. Their articles deal with outstanding events, institutions, people and (or) topical problems. With two articles on sport (football), E. Atuick opens up fields which had never been tackled in our journal before. L. Angabe presents a biographical article on Lydia Azuelie Akanbodiipo, a “forgotten”, but important political figure (a member of Parliament in the Second Republic) in Bulsa and the north and a pioneer for women’s rights.

Although our present issue is mainly concerned with Bulsa history (Atuga, colonial time, post-colonial time), several urgent topical subjects are treated: Should the allegedly expensive funeral celebrations be abandoned or reduced to some core rituals, in order to save money for development projects (E. Atuick)? Should the beautiful canopies of trees along the Sandema feeder road fall victim to the woodcutter’s chainsaw (Gh. Ayaric)? By taking up urgent topical subjects, BULUK is on the way to becoming an important mouthpiece capable of exerting some pressure on administrative institutions or social groups in the two Bulsa districts.

The tendency of the journal to stress topical events and problems has been strengthened by its close co-operation with BMY (Bulubisa Meina Yeri), the discussion group of the Bulsa community on Facebook. Some of our new authors (L. Angabe, E. Atuick, Atigsi-badek Afoko) are also active members of BMY, a fact which gives more publicity to the journal as seen in the considerable increase in the numbers of people visiting our website whenever new articles are announced in the News Feed section of the BMY Facebook page.

In July/August, 2012, Dr. Marcus Watson, a professor at Wyoming University (USA), visited Bulsaland in order to gain more knowledge about his Bulsa wife’s ethnic group and to conduct his own research project (see his article of this issue).

As a scholar specializing in the field of African American and Diaspora Studies, Marcus, has agreed to collaborate with us as a guest editor for our new edition of BULUK (8), the main feature of which will probably be “Migration and Diaspora”, and to comprise subjects like:

          • The role and social responsibility of educated Bulsa in Bulsa society.

• Bulubisa Meina Yeri (BMY): discussion topics in the group; places of residence of members of the group; education and position of the members.

• Interviews with Bulsa in the Diaspora.

• Bulsa and digital technologies.

• The effects of the cell phone use on Bulsa communities.

• Interviews with Bulsa politicians on emigration.

          • Social life of Bulsa living in the big towns of Southern Ghana.

          • Interview with the new Sandemnaab.