Introduction / History
Name: From the Bambara term 'Boso' (meaning 'straw-house,' a reference to dwellings located in temporary fishing camps); used for an entire ethnic group. "The Bozo" is really three distinct people groups speaking four varieties of the so called Bozo language. (These varieties are not too close, so spontaneous comprehension is difficult.) Within this assignment all three groups will be discussed and described.
Where Are they Located?
Climate: Hot, dry; temperatures generally range from 22-40 degrees C.
Religion: Muslim. Considered an unreached/least reached people group. Both national and expatriate missionaries are doing evangelism.
Livelihood: Fishing/boating, farming (principally rice and millet) and commerce.
Housing: Commonly sun-dried, mud brick houses in small, compact villages or straw huts in camps along the riverside (hence the name Bozo).
Languages: Jenaama, Tigemaxo, Tiemacewe and Kelinga or Hainyaxo.
Future Plans: Continue linguistic and cultural research; promote Bozo literacy in government schools; start Bible translation in the two major Bozo varieties (Tigemaxo and Jenaama); promote Scripture use through print and non-print media.
The major historical facts concerning the Bozo people that might affect their receptivity to the Christian message are as follows. The people group has been Muslims for about two to three generations and does not have a history of being Christian. They are a smaller people group with neighbouring groups that have Christian churches, thus giving the impression that Christianity is okay for the Dogon or Bobo people groups who were not highly Muslim. France colonized the country and has made a certain impression on the people groups as to what Christians are (i.e. like French). The Bozo are limited in their education as few people go to school. Also, few people understand French which makes them less accessible.
The Bozo live mostly in the Mopti region in the interior delta, but also dispersed around Mali and other West-African countries where there are rivers and dams. These people are migrating to Bamako in significant numbers, but perhaps with no great concentration in one place, dispersed through the city, but some along the river; as seasonal nomads along the river systems as far as Timbuktoo; to Mopti.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Bozo people highly value community. This is true whether they are village elders or women at a communal water well. Many of them are fishermen and there are fishing camps made up of straw huts on the Niger River islands. The Bozo also work in rice fields.
What Are Their Needs?
The women are often maintaining their fires, pounding millet for porridge, scrubbing blackened pots and re-muddling the outsides for cooking again. They can also be seen carding and spinning cotton or other chores. It is also their job to prepare the fish for selling and sell it in the market.
Things however are changing for the Bozo as their lives are becoming more modernized. Technology is leveling the tropics - cell phones, video, CD players, television, and satellites are making a huge impact on the society. Money and goods are becoming an important commodity. There is increased accessibility by boat or road; making travel easier and more possible. There is becoming an increase of knowledge and education within the tribe as some are going to school in other villages. Overall, there is very little education within the people group. In general this people group is becoming more aware of the world outside them.
There are various factors to consider when determining how to initially reach out to them. Tribes are vanishing faster than mission organizations are succeeding in translating Scripture into their languages. In general, tribal groups are refugees, living in perpetual fear of aggression from other tribes or powerful civilizations. Often they are able to survive by finding out how to live where no one else would want the land. This is important to realize that the Bozos are a nomadic people and are thus on the move. It is important to be willing to travel along with them. Also, this tribal group is animistic, beneath the Muslim surface there is a strong animistic undercurrent. They already have their own distinctive religious systems and worldviews. It will be thus important to slowly enter into the society and gradually become accepted. This people group will likely not respond to being directly evangelized.
Pray that missions organizations and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Bozo of Mali.
Ask the Lord to send loving Christians from Mali and other parts of Africa to the Bozo to share the Gospel with them.
Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are focusing on this people group.
Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Bozo who will boldly declare the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Bozo in his timing.
Scripture Prayers for the Bozo, Jenaama in Côte d'Ivoire.