Do in Leaves and Wood Among the Bobo and the Bwa

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Bwa Religious Beliefs:

Only 5% of Bwa are Moslem, 10% are Christian, while fully 85% are traditional animists. For most Bwa, spiritual life centers on the congregation of Do, and on the myths that recount the founding of the clans.

Capron has stated that the congregation of Do among the Bwa has been acquired by the Bwa from the Bobo, along with many social institutions, out of a sense of admiration by the Bwa of Bobo social cohesiveness and village organization. This acquisition of the congregation of Do is an example of Bwa receptivity to change for they are quick to adopt institutions from their neighbors if they feel they will benefit.  As an example, the congregation of Mami Wata has recently been introduced from Nigeria by young men expelled from Nigerian oil fields in 1983. [17]

The Bwa believe that the world was created by God, named Difini, or Dobweni, who abandoned man and left the earth when he was wounded by a woman pounding millet with her pestle. To act as his representative among man and as an intermediary between man and the forces of nature, Dobweni sent his son, Do.

Although Do is androgynous, both male and female, it is most frequently represented as male. Do represents the bush and its life-giving force, for the Bwa still depend on the bush for game and gathered food. He shows himself as the source of plant life and the power that gives fruit to man's work in the fields. Do is concerned with all ceremonies that insure the renewal of life.

Do is represented by an iron bull-roarer that is called aliwe "he weeps" or linyisan "he makes a sound". "The man who carries this Do whirls it about his head. The sound that is produced is low and vibrating: it is the voice of Do (dotanu). Do is also represented by masks bieni, made exclusively of wild plants (stalks, grass, and leaves), because they must not resemble the creations of man.

The religious leader is an earth priest, the labie, who is the oldest male member of the clan that first occupied the land on which the village is established. The congregation of Do is a major cohesive force in the traditional Bwa community, providing the congregational bonding that makes the Bwa a unified ethnic group.


[17] I have seen Bwa plank masks bearing the image of Mami Wata in the southern Bwa towns of Boni, Dossi, and Pa.