Introduction / History
The Bolon are an agricultural people living primarily in Kenedougou and Houet provinces of Burkina Faso. They are closely related to a number of other groups in the area, and their language, also called Bolon, is a part of the Niger-Congo language family. Very little is known about the Bolon in particular; thus, some assumptions have been made about their lifestyle based on their proximity to the Bobo Jula and the Jula.
Burkina Faso consists of an extensive plateau, which is slightly inclined towards the south. The country's climate is generally dry, and the soil, infertile. Three principal rivers can be found in Burkina Faso: the Black Volta, Red Volta, and White Volta. Converging to the south in Ghana, these three rivers form the Volta River.
In the southwestern part of Burkina Faso are sandstone plateaus bordered by the 500 feet high Banfora Escarpment. The majority of the population is rural and lives in some 7,700 villages.
What are their lives like?
Burkina Faso is home to approximately 90 distinct ethnic groups. The Bolon represent a slight percentage of the population. Historically, the Bobo, the Lobi, and the Gurunsi were the earliest known inhabitants of the country. In about the fifteenth century A.D., conquering horsemen invaded the region from the south and established the Gurma kingdom in the east and the Mossi kingdom in the central area. Several Mossi kingdoms developed, the most powerful of which was Ouagadougou. This state, headed by an emperor titled the Morho Naba ("great lord"), defeated attempted invasions by Muslim Songhai and Fulani neighbors. Despite the warfare, the kingdom managed to maintain valuable commercial links with major West African trading powers, such as the Dyula, the Hausa, and the Asante (Ashanti).
Today, the Bolon grow staples such as millet, sorghum, and a wide variety of other crops. Crop rotation and some irrigation techniques are used, and small numbers of cattle and other animals are tended. Hunting, fishing, and the gathering of wild plants provide additional food for the Bolon.
In a particular locality, a clan composed of a local lineage dominates. Individual households consist of extended family units. Their houses are rectangular in shape, with mud walls, beaten-earth roofs, and, frequently, defensive outer walls. Many of the men have more than one wife. The levirate (compulsory marriage of a widow to her dead husband's brother) and the sororate (compulsory marriage of a woman to her dead or barren sister's husband) are commonly practiced.
Bolon society is patrilineal, that is, inheritances and lines of descent are traced through the males. Private property is passed to the eldest son, and household property is passed to the younger brother of the father. Married sons live in the household of their father.
Bolon social structure is relatively democratic without rigid classes. However, slavery was once present in the culture of the area, and despised castes of blacksmiths and leather workers still exist.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of the Bolon are Muslims of the Sunni tradition, and few are Christians. The remainder practice various forms of animism, believing that non-living objects have spirits. In particular, ancestor worship (praying to the dead for help and guidance) is practiced. It is believed that the supreme god is too distant to worship directly; therefore, the only way to serve or worship him is through a spirit. They will often worship a statue or other object that is believed to "house" a spirit. The spirit, in return, will give the worship to the supreme god.
What are their needs?
Like many other West African tribes, the Bolon are dominated by Islam. This stronghold can only be loosened through prayer. Intercession and evangelism are needed to teach the Bolon that salvation comes only through the cross of Jesus.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Bolon of Burkina Faso.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies that are focusing on the Bolon.
* Pray that God will strengthen, embolden, and protect the Bolon believers.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Bolon church to the glory of His name!