This morning I sat and did this painting just outside the camp at Mvuu. (Mvuu is the Chichewa word for a “Hippo”. It sounds like the blowing sound the hippo makes when it surfaces). In spite of the hippos grunting as they wandered around the camp and a visit from the hyenas I had a deep sleep. So when I sat down to paint I was rested and calm. I climbed a termite mound and sat in the shade of a tree. What a pleasant experience. The Shire River is just behind the bush to the right of the picture. I climbed to the top of the mound and took some photos, but there was no space to sit and paint.
Earlier that morning, Samuel our guide on a walk in the reserve had told us that the termites build the nest to house grass cuttings for a fungus garden to produce food for the queen, who lives for up to 18 years. That is a long time. And she is really just an egg factory. As termites hurry around they touch every other termite they contact and swop body fluids. And they do the same when they take the queen her dinner. The body fluids keep a running ratio of workers to soldiers and other roles and the queen automatically produces the kind of eggs to keep the ratios balanced. So if the wall is breached and a whole bunch of soldiers lay down their lives defending the repair party, the body fluid mix will show it and the queen will lay “soldier eggs” and refill the ranks of the royal guard. And all of this was going on as I sat and painted and looked out for wild and dangerous animals. Such is life in the African bush.