Prof. em. Dr. Rüdiger Schott (Bonn, Germany)


How I Met Sir Azantinlow, Paramount Chief of the Bulsa and Sandem-naab, for the First Time and What He Told me about the History of the Bulsa



Little was known outside Buluk about the Bulsa, their way of life and culture up to 1966. Upon the advice of several colleagues of mine in Germany, England and Ghana I therefore decided to take leave from my university at Münster, Germany, for about 7 months in order to start a thorough ethnographic study of the Bulsa, their cultural, social and intellectual life. In Münster I was professor of anthropology (ethnol­ogy) from 1965 until I became professor emeritus in 1993.

In August 1966 I took the mail-boat of the Elder-Dempster Line from Liverpool to Tema. Quite by chance, on that mail-boat I met Rev. Byers of the Presbyterian Mission in Sandema. He invited me to stay with him at the Presby Mission Station for at least a couple of weeks at the beginnings of my research. The Bulsa people I met at that time were, of course, curious. When they asked me why I had come to Buluk, I told them: "My people at home want to know more about your people - that is why they have sent me here so as to study and photograph everything, so that they may know you better and be your friends."

On September 22, 1966 Rev. Byers introduced me to Sir Azantinlow, Sandem-naab and Paramount Chief of the Bulsa. In my diary I noted on that first encounter, almost 36 years ago: “We meet the Paramount Chief in front of his compound where he is conferring with his elders, sitting under a tree. Rev. Byers and I address him respectfully as 'Sir' - he truly deserves this address! He invites me for an interview next Monday."

This interview took place on September 26, 1966. I quote again from my diary: "At 9:45 hrs. I go to visit the Paramount Chief together with Akanvariwen [at that time a young boy from Sandema-Kobdem].

We have to wait for some time in front of the Chief's big compound. Then we are asked into his house.

He greets me in a friendly way and allows me to install my tape recorder. He kindly accepts my gift of a bottle of French brandy called 'Napoléon' and starts to recount detailed historical observations which prove that he is well versed in the history of Europe [...]. At first I ask the Chief to tell me something about the economic situation of his people and about the plans and possibilities of economic development in Buluk. When this topic is exhausted, I ask the Chief to tell me something about the history of his people. His eyes light up and for one and a half hours he recounts from his memory the oral traditions of his people. He begins with the legendary origins of Atuga, the founder of the Bulsa people, from the royal family of the Mamprusi in Nalerigu, he goes on with a genealogical list of his ancestors, then tells me about the wars of slavery led by Babatu and how he was defeated by the Bulsa in Sandema, and he ends with the arrival of the British. Never before have these historical traditions been recorded in such detail."

The tape recording was copied and written down in Buli by Mr. Godfrey Achaw, at that time my assistant and interpreter. He also produced a provisional translation of the Buli text in English. More than ten times we saw Sir Azantinlow later on in order to clarify certain questions and for further information on the history of the Bulsa.

The Sandem-naab and Paramount Chief of the Bulsa began his story as follows:

Dipo, dipo taa koma koma nyin ka Nalerigu a jam se. Dipo ti miena jam bo ka jig' yeng, ate taa koma ale ba koma a kpaling chaab. Dii nying ate ti jam kpaling chaab ale Mampru­sa­nga la, ka taa koma pok ale jam ta puuk, ate ba yaa poli ain nipowa ale biag ka bi-naling, ate ba yaa yig nipowa ale puuka a ko yie biika. Ka diila nying ate ti yaa kpaling chaab, a tong chaab ale piema. Ba jaa poli ain nipowa ale biag ka nidoa a yaase ja-buui ale nala la. Nipowa ka Atuga pok. Atuga jam ka nur mang, ate ba yaa yaali ain ba yiag wa, alege ze ba ale ba nye diila. Ba yaa poli ain ba dan ko nipowa, ba le nye kpaling ale Atuga a va dila nying a yiag wa. Dipo, taa koma ale Mamprusanga koma ale jaa kpaling chaab la, ba yaa gilim Atuga ale wa tomu miena a basi sunsung po a yaali ain ba yig wa-dek. Ate wa yaa do wusum, ate bu yiti wen, a ta wa ga zi Gambiak piungku zuk. Wusumu nansanga diem doa dula jigni kama ale jinla. Wa le ta gbaluku la, ku me langku diem bo dula jigni. Bala vienga diem doa dula jigni. Ku maa bo wie po kama, ate nurba gaa nya, a biisi ain taa kowa ate ba tomu jam ta wa a yaali ain ba yig wa la, wa jam pa de ka wusum ate bu yiti a ta wa a ga zi piungku zuk. Wa yaa be zaani ka piungku zuk, a yaa chiesi wa tomu miena, miena a yaa cheng, a jam Bulsa tengka, a yaa jam se dula jigni, a chim Buloa la.


1 bi-naling, lit. a "good" child, i.e. a child with supernatu­ral powers who may become prosperous in life and an important person of great fame.

2 ja-buui, def. ja-buuni, pl. ngan-buuma, "dreadful, wild beast or creature (unspecified, unknown; may e.g. be used to frighten a child)." (Franz Kröger: Buli-English Dictionary, 1992, p. 145)

3 nur mang, lit. a "real man", i.e. a man with all the good qualities of manliness, or, as one of my informants had it: "a man who is 'good, friendly, generous', but also 'impor­tant', with the hidden meaning that he might have become the next king of the Mamprusi".

Long, long ago our forefathers left Nalerigu and came to settle here. Formerly we [and the Mamprusi] all lived at one place; then our fathers and their fathers fought one another. The reason why we came to fight with the Mamprusi was: our father's wife became pregnant and they thought that the woman would give birth to a "good" child1; then they seized the pregnant woman, killed her and tore the child out of her womb. This is the reason why we fought one another and shot one another with arrows. They [the Mamprusi?] thought that the woman would deliver a boy or some wild animal2 which would be "good" [i.e. gifted with supernatural powers]. The woman was Atuga's wife. Atuga was a real man3; they [the Mam­prusi] wanted to drive him away, but they did not know how to do this. Then they thought that if they would kill the woman, they would strike a fight with Atuga and subse­quently could drive him away because of that. At the time when our forefathers and the forefathers of the Mamprusi were fighting one another, they [the Mamprusi] surrounded Atuga and all his followers; they enclosed him in their midst, because they wanted to capture him. And he [Atuga] mounted a horse and it rose upwards and took him to land on the Gambaga scarp. The hoof marks of that horse are still imprin­ted at that spot up to this very day. He also had a spear; the impres­sion of its tip also still exists at that spot. The holes of both [the hoof marks and the impres­sion of the spear] are still left there. Even now it is something substantial; people went there to have a look at it, and they said that our father, whom their [the Mamprusi's] army wanted to capture, took hold of a horse which rose up­wards and took him to land on the Gambaga scarp. Then he stayed on the [Gambaga] scarp; he gathered all his followers and then went forth and came to the country of the Bulsa; then he took up his abode here at this place and he became a Bulo.