Formlings 2: variations

Following up on a previous post about a very distinctive element of the Zimbabwe hunter-gatherer rock art – paintings of large bee or termite-like nests that are known as ‘formlings’. I posted photographs of the Toghwana Dam formling that one might imagine depicts hunter-gatherers of the past harvesting insects or insect products (honey). 
All the formlings seem to be based on the same basic model. Each is made up of individual lozenge-shaped cells or chambers, usually stacked more or less upright.
Often, these chambers are filled in with solid colour – usually red, sometimes yellow or a combination of red and yellow. Chambers sometimes have ‘caps’ painted in a contrasting colour on either end. Chambers are sometimes partially painted with rows of white, sometimes red, dots. Some formlings are shown with an opening through which ‘things’ (minute painted flecks) enter or leave these massive ‘nests’.
Paintings of formlings are often surrounded by other images, as though the presence of a formling draws other images, of powerful animals and human figures, to cluster around them. As a result there are paintings around and on top of many formlings.
But most of the paintings of formlings are just too big and complex to be realistic representations of bees’ or termites’ nest. It has long been recognised that the paintings of so-called formlings depict things beyond realistic illustrations of gathering honey and/or termites. So what are the formlings about?
In a following post I will show you one of the most spectacular formlings in Zimbabwe and present the latest ideas about their meaning and significance