Introduction / History
The Bobo Jula are an agricultural people living primarily in the Bobo region of Burkina Faso. They are closely related to several other groups in the area, and their language is a part of the Niger-Congo family. Burkina Faso consists of an extensive plateau which is slightly inclined towards the south. The climate of the country is generally dry, and the soil, infertile.
Three principal rivers can be found in Burkina Faso: the Black Volta, the Red Volta, and the White Volta. Converging to the south in Ghana, these three rivers form the Volta River. Few people live for several miles on either side of the Volta rivers because of the presence of the deadly tsetse fly. As a result, villages tend to be grouped toward the center of the country at higher elevations.
In the southwestern part of Burkina Faso are sandstone plateaus bordered by the 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 earliest known inhabitants of the country were the Bobo, the Lobi, and the Gurunsi. In about the 15th 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 the attempted invasions by their 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 Bobo Jula 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 sources for the Bobo Jula.
In a particular locality, a clan composed of a local lineage dominates. Individual households consist of extended families. 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.
Bobo Jula 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.
Bobo Jula 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 Bobo Jula are Muslims of the Sunni tradition. 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 Bobo Jula are dominated by Islam. This stronghold can only be loosened through prayer. Fervent intercession and more evangelism are needed to teach the Bobo Jula that salvation comes only through the cross of Jesus Christ.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth Christian laborers to work among the Bobo Jula of Burkina Faso.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to give creative ideas for evangelism to the missions agency that is focusing on the Bobo Jula.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Bobo Jula.