Soul Food : Pula – The drops of life

By Jeff Murungweni

Have you ever wondered why there is such a buzz made around the issues of the diversity of Africans and their cultures? You might ask yourself where the hype is in being people of different cultures, and just staying in a shared location. Bringing this question home, one would ask himself or herself: Why is Africa University famous for the different nationalities of students at the institution? In this article, I would like to share one piece of African culture that caught my eye, especially after digging deeper into that practice.

I am quite an enthusiast when it comes to issues dealing with African tourism, people, and their cultures. I believe that these three areas are co-dependent on one another and that intertwining makes everything flow smoothly. With the recent increase in the frequency of rain these past couple of days, and the many moments I have been stuck and unable to move about because of the rain, I have gotten time to delve a bit deeper into the significance of rain to us as Africans. Issues such as crop production and other joint water use pop up at the mere look at the importance of rain, but I found something much more meaningful which is believed by our western neighbors: Botswana.

Botswana is a country that is nicely positioned between our beautiful Zimbabwe and Namibia. It is popularly known for the Kalahari Desert, which takes up quite a sizeable chunk of the country’s land, as it covers 70 per cent of the entire country. This country is also popular for its succulent beef and the diamonds that have helped spur economic growth within the country. It is also one of the most culturally rich countries within the region, with a mix of different cultural groups, such as the Tswana and the San. Recently, I discovered a very interesting belief that the people of Botswana practice. It was at an event I attended in Gaborone, and the president of Botswana was a guest speaker. At some points in his speech, he chanted the word “Pula,” and the rest of the audience repeated that word in response. At first, I was surprised until I grew curious as to why most speakers were repeating the chant “Pula.” The only “Pula” I knew of was their currency, which, at some point, Zimbabwe had used within the economy. I was now asking myself whether they loved their currency that much or if there was something else.

One Tswana man then helped take away the cloud of confusion from me. He told me of the two meanings of the word Pula. Firstly, “Pula” means rain in Setswana, one of the dominant local languages. As I mentioned earlier, Botswana is a country where most of the land is a desert, so that must already paint a picture of how scarce water can be. This situation now leads to the second meaning of the word. Because of how important water is to these people, they regard it as a blessing when it rains, hence the other meaning of the word “Pula” is “blessings’. The people of Botswana value rain so much that they see it as blessings showering upon their land, and giving life to them and everything of theirs. This makes their currency unique because the name comes from deep within the hearts and beliefs of the people of Botswana.

“Pula” is regarded as the national motto of Botswana, carrying the meaning: let there be rain. As I also highlighted a bit earlier, the rain symbolizes hope, life, happiness, good health, and prosperity. In the moment of dryness, whenever the drops of rain begin to hit the ground, the people rejoice as they see their land receiving a breath of new life. Now, let’s look inward. In those ‘dry’ moments of your life, do you get to celebrate when any positive thing happens, or you’re too focused on the dryness to focus on the rain that has come? I believe that the more we shout “Pula” each time even the smallest of opportunities arise, we will be able to focus on maximizing the chances we get, and living happier lives because we choose not to focus on the negative that we don’t have control over. So as you go on with whatever you’re doing in your life, remember the African people of Botswana, who always shout “Pula” to remind them of the great hope and life that the rain brings to them, and that they will never downsize their belief to the level of the desert, but will continue to grow as their minds are also watered by the rain. In all that you do, remember “Pula” – the drops of life, as taught by the people of Botswana.