Bozo, Kelenga in Mali

Bozo, Kelenga
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People Name: Bozo, Kelenga
Country: Mali
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 47,000
World Population: 47,000
Primary Language: Bozo, Kelengaxo
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Translation Started
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Soninke
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Bozo comes from the Bambara term for straw house; it's a reference to dwellings in temporary fishing camps. People use this term for an entire ethnic group. "Bozo" is really three distinct people groups speaking four varieties of the so called Bozo language. One of these is Kelengaxo, the language of the Kelenga Bozo people.

The Bozo live mostly in the Mopti region in the interior delta but also live in other parts of Mali and other West-African countries where there are rivers and dams. These people are migrating to Bamako in significant numbers.

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. They usually live in sun-dried, mud brick houses in small, compact villages or straw huts in camps along the riverside.

The women are often maintaining their fires, pounding millet for porridge, scrubbing blackened pots and re-muddling the outsides for cooking again. They also spin cotton and do other various chores. Women prepare fish for selling and sell it in the market.

Things are changing for the Kelenga Bozo as their lives are becoming more modernized. Some have cell phones, videos, CD players, televisions, and satellite TV. These 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. The Kelenga Bozo people are becoming more aware of the world around them.

There is an increase in knowledge and education as some are going to school in other villages. Obtaining education is difficult for rural people like the Bozos because they seldom understand French, Mali's language of education. Missionaries are promoting Bozo literacy in government schools.

Bozo society is patriarchal (male dominated). Unmarried men live in special bachelor huts in the villages, and married couples live with the husband's family. Extended family arranges Bozo marriages heads through male intermediaries. The prospective groom gives gifts to the bride's parents and performs a bride-service. He must also pay a bride-price, but sometimes, instead of a bride-price, the two families exchange women. Some families practice polygyny (having over one wife), but as Muslims, a man has a limit of four wives.

The Bozo live in small, compact villages on the banks of streams. They have several types of dwellings. Straw huts make up their temporary fishing camps. In the floodplains, they live in dwellings built on artificial mounds. The most common type of village, however, are rectangular houses with sun-dried brick walls. The roofs of these houses are flat and made of beaten dirt that is supported on logs. Bozo land is owned by the community and is administered by the community's headman, who lives in an interior court in the center of the village. The headman handles the affairs of the village community. He is the clan chief.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Kelenga Bozo people have been Muslims for about two to three generations and do not have a history of being Christian. They are a smaller people group with neighboring groups that have Christian churches, thus giving the impression that Christianity is okay for the Dogon or Bobo people groups who are not highly Muslim. France colonialists left a terrible impression on the Bozo peoples of how Christians behave.

Beneath the Muslim surface there is a strong animistic undercurrent. They already have their own distinctive religious systems and worldviews. It will be important to enter Bozo society and gradually become accepted. This people group will probably not respond to being directly evangelized.

What Are Their Needs?

Tribes are vanishing faster than mission organizations are translating Scripture into their languages. Tribal groups are much like refugees, living in perpetual fear of aggression from other tribes or powerful civilizations. Often, they can survive by finding out how to live where no one else would want the land.

The Bozos are a nomadic people and are thus on the move. Missionaries must travel with them.

Prayer Points

Pray that mission organizations and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Kelenga Bozo of Mali.
Ask the Lord to send loving Africa Christians to the Kelenga Bozo to share the gospel with them.
Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to the mission 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 a strong church planting movement among the Bozo peoples.

Text Source:   Joshua Project