The great American landscape photography Ansel Adams once said: “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer”. This scene, spinning back the years to 1976, finds me, the photographer, suspended in the air, at a viewpoint east of Hobas, high above the Fish River Canyon in Namibia. (27° 35’ 21.12:” S & 17° 36’ 51.45” E). On the ground, below a bottle of Windhoek Lager, lies the classic novel ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’, written by Ken Kesey. In 1975 this novel was turned into the blockbuster film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson, who is, with absolute reality, the inmate of a state mental hospital. Back then, I was a youthful 29 year old, a newly appointed lecturer in photography at a college in Durban. Lusting after life as an image-maker, I exhibited great exuberance and the madness of an adventurous traveller. So in this scene, I am acting the cuckoo bird, flying over its nest. This bird has the habit of laying eggs in other birds’ nests and a cuckold is the husband of an adulterous wife. Anyway, here I am, setting the 8-second self-timer to my Nikon, then sprinting to the wall on the edge of the canyon and jumping into the air for the short exposure. After my 10th failed attempt, I see the arrival of a 1970 Valiant pulling a caravan. I guessed that, like me, they were also looking for an overnight camping spot. So now to get back to the Ansel Adams’ line —- they became the viewer. So just imagine: Here we have Uncle and Auntie So-and-So, watching what appears to be a madman, starting at a camera on a tripod, then sprinting to the edge of a canyon, turning and launching himself into the air. After a short while as viewers, they climbed back into their car and left, the back of the caravan disappearing into its own Namibian dust. After finally achieving my pictorial success, I sat down with another Windhoek and read from the book. It’s a scene where Indian chief Bromden, after receiving electroshock therapy quotes these nursery lines.

“Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn

Apple seed and apple thorn;

Wire, briar, limber lock,

Three geese in a flock.

One flew east,

And one flew west,

And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest”

(Since 1975, only ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ and ‘Silence of the lambs’ have won all 5 Oscar categories)

Obie Oberholzer in a self portrait ( with book ‘One flew over the Cuckoos Nest’ and a Windhoek Lager beer ) at the Fish River Canyon in Namibia in 1978.

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