Southern African term for a pick-up or ute.

The people - plural - of Botswana are called Batswana, literally the Tswana people, although the term now refers to all citizens, regardless of ethnicity.  The singular is Motswana.  The language is Setswana.

Plural for kgosi.

Plural for kgotla.

'Ditshwanelo' is Setswana for 'rights'.  In capitals it refers to the organisation with a dual Setswana-English name: DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, where Robyn worked as a DW during her time in Botswana.  It is pronounced, with phonetic spelling " di - tsua [silent "h"] - ne - lo" with "di" being the plural prefix and the accent being on the "lo".

Setswama for 'hello' (pronounced as written, du-mela).

Or Kgalakgadi, is the Setswana spelling of Kalahari.

Chief in Setswana.  Pronounced broadly ko-see.  Plural - dikgosi.

The name of the village meeting place, customary country and local government administration.  Pronounced broadly k-'h'ot-la; where the 'h' is a guttural sound as in the 'ch' of 'loch'.  Plural - dikgotla.

Means 'Mrs' or 'mother' (pronounced 'mah')

A mokoro (plural - mekoro) is a dug-out canoe typically used for transport in the Okavango Delta, traditionally made from large trees.  They are now made, locally, in a more environmentally-friendly manner from fibreglass, copying the appearance of the dug-out wooden version.  Traditional mekoro pictured left.

A person from Botswana, singular of Batswana.

Pula is the most important word in Setswana.  It means rain, which is so crucial in this extremely dry country, and it means blessings.  It is also a cheer and a toast: "Pula!"  Last, but certainly not least, it is the name of the national currency. 

The three meanings referred to in the title of the book are closely linked.  Rain sustains the cattle, crops and countryside, generating income and bringing blessings.
Pula: Money - which we raised through our fundraising efforts.
Pula: Rain - that all important commodity, which fell in abundance during the 2005-6 wet season, but hardly at all during 2004-5 or 2006-7.
Pula: Blessings - which we hoped would spring from all development in Botswana, particularly our areas of work in treating children with HIV/AIDS and working for human rights.

Means 'Mr' (pronounced 'rar')

A round house or building, in Botswana, generally built of mud bricks, with a thatched roof and relatively few windows.

A collective name for the 100,000 or so Bushmen of Southern Africa.  The term San comes from the Nama name given to these peoples collectively by the Khoenhoen (or Khoikhoi), which is 'Sonqua' or 'Sa-au', meaning 'those who forage'.  In Botswana, the official government term for all San groups is Basarwa (singular Mosarwa).

Botswana's most famous traditional dish.  Beef brisket is cooked slowly with onion and seasoning.  Bones are removed and the meat is pounded into tender shreads.

National language of Botswana, literally the language of the Tswana people.  The culture of Botswana is also referred to as Setswana culture.

'Veld' is Afrikaans, from the Dutch, literally meaning 'field'.  In Southern Africa it tends to refer to unimproved land and is often used like 'outback' or 'bush' in Australia.  Terms such as thornveld and bushveld are also loose botanical classifications.  In Botswana, thornveld is basically unimproved land scattered with thorn trees and other scrubby bushes (most of which also have thorns).

Ululation is an onomatopoetic word describing the sound made by women expressing celebration or grief, especially at weddings and funerals, sometimes also at parties and other secular celebrations.  It may also be included in worship services and is incorporated into some African musical styles such as Shona music, where it is a form of audience participation.










Mekoro / Mokoro







Thornveld / veld


This associated website shows hundreds of Robyn's photographs from her life, work and travel around Botswana
Website & photos copyright 2007
Some of the Setswana and other 'foreign' terms used in 'Pula, Pula, Pula', include the following.
Glossary of Setswana & other words
Two years in search of money, rain & blessings for Botswana