The Meaning of Rain in Botswana Culture

In Botswana, rain is viewed as the source of all life in the universe. The people of Botswana even greet each other by saying “Pula!” (Literally meaning “Rain!”. The answer to that greeting would be “A e ne!” meaning, “let it rain!” A person who answers by saying “Let it rain” means that he or she is happy and well. Rain in the culture of Botswana symbolizes peace, happiness and abundance of life. The word “rain” is also used in the culture of Botswana to calm people down. Therefore, if someone became very angry, those trying to calm him or her down would say, “A Pula e ne Thlee!” (Please allow the rain to rain!”

Rain in Botswana is also the national slogan. When politicians want to fire up a crowd, they normally shout “Pula! Pula! Pula!” to which the found would normally get very excited. Also, when people are pleasantly surprised, they say “Pula e tla na” meaning “It is going to rain”. Rain is so revered in Botswana that before the beginning of the rain season, a public cerebration is held in many villages to welcome the rain. At such celebrations, the rain is praised in poem and song.

Because of the importance of rain, many people in Botswana are named after the rain. I have a son named “Pula” (rain), but a more common name in Botswana for boys in Botswana and South Africa (the same ethnic group exists in both countries) is “Rra-Pula” which means “father of the Rain”. Girls are called Mma-Pula” which means “Mother of the rain”.

To show just how important rain is to the country, the money for the country is called the “Pula”. One American Dollar (USD) is equivalent to about seven Botswana Pulas (BWP). The Botswana equivalent of the American cent is called the “thebe” (shield in English).

One explanation for the significance of the rain in Botswana culture might be the fact that Botswana is a semi-desert country. Botswana is known for the Kgalagadi (known in the Western world as Kalahari) Desert. The Kgalagadi Desert is part of the setting for the famous and hilarious movie called “The Gods must have been crazy”, where a Bushman (San People of Botswana, also called the First Peoples of Botswana) find a Coca-Cola bottle dropped by a helicopter and start running with it to go and throw it to the other end of the earth since they believe it will bring misery to their people. Botswana is a very dry country, and that is why rain is revered as a sign of goodness.