Fr. Alfred Agyenta (Tamale)

Appreciation and Criticism of BULUK 1

... I was indeed delighted to receive one of the maiden copies of BULUK. Congratu-lations and more grease to the elbows of the Editorial Team. I have given the second copy to the Bulsa here in Tamale. I hope to get them to contribute to subsequent issues of BULUK in which they could tell their own story!

As far as I am concerned BULUK is a noble venture and, if the words of Ghanatta are anything to go by, a very promising one. What is more important for human develop-ment than a viable tool of communication by which ideas, information, experiences and knowledge are exchanged and dis-tortions and misinterpretations dispelled? BULUK, to my mind, offers its readers such a tool.

It is against this background that I wish to make the following contributions and reactions to some of the ideas expressed in the last issue of BULUK.


It is a laudable idea that for the sake of uniformity and for the purpose of a journal like BULUK, we would need to settle for and agree on the spelling of the ethnic name of the people of BULUK.

The problems connected with this have been well exposed by Dr Kroeger in his discussion. What remains to be done is finding meaningful solutions to these problems, a task to which he has invited readers to consider making their contri-bution.

First of all, I think, the issue of the appropriate ethnonym for the people of Buluk is a straightforward one. I agree with Kroeger that "Kanjargas" is obsolete as it is a misnomer!

As regards the spelling of the more correct form (whether Builsa, Bulisa or Bulsa), I believe the key to this problem lies with the correct spelling of the name of the land itself, Buluk.

"Buluk" seems to be a degenerated form of "Bul'k" The (') between the "l" and the "k" is the so-called glottal stop, a sound made by complete stoppage of breath in the throat. As this is not part of the regular English sound system it is often dropped by English speakers in favour of a full fledged vowel, here in our case "Bul-u-k".

If this hypothesis is correct then it is easy to see why the ethnonym should be "Bulsa", "Buloa" (sing.) and not "Builsa" or "Bulisa", none of which seems to have any derivative link with "Bul'k".

With regard to the alleged abuse pointed out by Kroeger in the same discussion, whereby English is mixed with Buli in the same sentence, I would say, the determining factor is whether the speaker is expressing himself or herself in English or in Buli.

If the speaker is using English, it is more correct to say, "I am Bulsa" rather than "I am a buloa" just as it is incorrect to say "I am a German" instead of the more acceptable "I am German or English". "Bulsa" here is being used in the adjectival sense as we have in the statement "He is French". I tend to believe that for many English users "Bulsa" has become a technical term with an adjectival function applicable to both singular and plural cases. "Buloa" has not acquired this technical meaning like its plural counterpart, "Bulsa". To say then that " I am a buloa" is to fall into the same trap of mixing English and Buli in the same sentence deplored by Kroeger in his discussion.

With regard to the plural, it is equally correct to say "We are Bulsa", just as one could say "they are French".

If the speaker is using Buli then it is more correct to say, "Mi ka Buloa" (sg.) or "Tama ka Bulsa" (pl.).


The "Reisebericht" of Renate Ewers zum Rode makes some interesting reading. Granted the brevity of her visit (two weeks?) and the overwhelming nature of what she saw and experienced during this period, what she reports here is quite understandable.

Nevertheless some of the opinions ex-pressed therein are quite objectionable. One that particularly struck me is her saying that "I find the emergence of more and more so called rectangular houses with iron-sheet and aluminium roofings an unfortunate development and a threat, somehow, to the traditional compound which I find is better adapted to the climate and landscape of the savannah".

The threat to the traditional compound, that Renate talks about, is not from the rectangular houses with iron-sheets and aluminium roofings but rather from the ever-growing unfriendly weather conditions in this part of the world. People are simply adapting to present needs!

Just last year (1999) most of these com-pounds in the traditional style were levelled to the ground by flood waters. Reports from some rural areas speak of some owners of herds of cattle, having lost their compound to the flood waters, selling off some of their animals (something they would rarely do) to acquire some iron-sheets and bags of cement to put up more lasting dwelling-places. It is a question of learning to survive in very difficult conditions!

That apart, what Renate might not have observed during her visit is the yearly tedious maintenance work that these traditional compound houses require, a task usually taken out on the backs of our already overworked women!

When it comes to making a choice between improving one's living standards and putting up a costly show-piece your guess, I believe, is as good as mine!


Recently some very serious efforts have been made to address the problem of furniture in most of the schools in Buluk. In line with the self-help spirit that is catching on in this country, this initiative is led by citizens of Buluk resident mostly in Accra and Tamale. These have imposed certain levies on themselves the proceeds of which will be used to procure furniture for some of the most needy schools in the Bulsa district.

This initiative falls very much in line with the objectives of NETFUND as well as those of the proposed Bulsa Network Programme in the pipeline. There may be the need for some coordination among these various initiatives to ensure maximum success in what is being done.