Burkina Faso: Tubabu Salesman

Paul Thiessen surprised listeners by reading in Siamou. Credit: Lois Thiessen

by Paul Thiessen

I roam through the bustling crowds of the Saturday market and listen for someone calling my name, “Bwallon Kén!”We exchange all the necessary greetings, then he says, “Ma tè” (What’s the news?) So I tell them that I’m selling Siamou calendars.

I pull out a blue calendar and explain the attractive features, especially the five days of the Siamou week, and show them how they can find which is today. They love it. This is, indeed, a Siamou calendar.

The men are making china green tea with their tiny enamel teapots and charcoal burner. The aroma of hot tea and glowing coals fills the air. They offer me some in the middle of my presentation. Very sweet. Very strong. Very delicious. 

I read them all the names of the months in Siamou: “Cold Weather Month, Hot Weather Month, Very Hot Weather Month, Pick up the Daba Month, Seeding Month….”

Next, I show them the Noah story. Each month has a short paragraph of this story. I begin to read the first two paragraphs in Siamou: Noah was a righteous man. He walked with God. But the people were evil and rebelled against God. So God told Noah to build a large boat.

By now a small crowd has gathered. Here is a Tubabu (white man) reading Siamou out loud. They have never seen such a thing before. I read extra loud to attract attention. More people are coming to listen. Siamou people are hearing a Bible story in their beloved language for the first time.

Then I tell the rest in Siamou, because reading it all would take too long there in the middle of the market. I emphasize that it rained 40 days, using the Siamou word for “forty” (kpélnkrô). This number impresses the listeners, because young people say “binani” (in Jula, the trade language) even when they are talking Siamou. Hearing the genuine Siamou word for the number 40 gets people excited. This story is being told in pure Siamou.

I tell the story pointing to the pictures on each page. Then I get to the end, where Noah is lifting up his hands toward God to thank Him for saving his family.

About halfway through the story, someone is digging in his pocket for change. He hands me 300 fcfa, and I give him a calendar. Someone else says, “The price is too high. Lower the price.” I answer: “We paid the printshop in Ouagadougou 500 fcfa for each of these. You are already getting a good deal.” Out comes 300 fcfa. They know this is a good deal.

They love hearing their language and they love the prestige it gives Siamou people and the Siamou language to hear a Tubabu reading it.

After selling a few calendars I go home and pray that God will use this story of Noah to lead people toward the Truth, toward God, and toward Eternal Life.

Paul Thiessen (Blumenort), currently living in Canada, has served in Burkina Faso, west Africa, for many years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: