Obie Oberholzer was born on a farm in the Pretoria area of South Africa in 1947. He studied Graphic Design and Photography at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) and Munich (Germany). He graduated in the late 1970s in Germany with an M.A. and worked as an independent freelance photographer, amongst others, for the prestigious Bilderberg agency and was associated with the Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa as a professor. Oberholzer is a photographer who combines his photographs with storytelling. His stories develop randomly at the places he visits or through the people he meets while on his travels to capture people and places. A book about cemeteries therefore is a given for someone who tends to spend the night at a graveyard. Limburgian ‘Memento Mori’ is Oberholzer’s second Limburgian production. Oberholzer brought about a book and exhibition two years ago where he followed the footsteps of Dutch photographer and journalist Alphons Hustinx from Roermond seventy years after the latter had traveled through South Africa taking pictures of historic places.
The South African photographer is inspired by graveyards. Wherever he ends up for work or recreational purposes, he always tries to make time to visit these special places. He was at the Limburgian Museum in Venlo (NL) for an exhibition in 2008. Photo-crazy as Oberholzer is, he could not resist the temptation to go out and visit these places that connect the temporary with the eternal. From the north to the south, east to the west, Oberholzer can be found wherever one stumbles across an exceptional graveyard.
The initiative of Limburgian Memento Mori came about under apposite circumstances; at a graveyard! When Oberholzer travels through his native South Africa he often spends the night at a cemetery. There is always flowing water, but most importantly; it is a safe place to be at. No South African would dare go to a graveyard at night. One morning Oberholzer sat eating granola at the graves of Jan and Fransina van Dijk when he received a text message from the Netherlands. “Would you mind coming over to the Netherlands to photograph some of the most famous graveyards?” was the content of the message. It was Koos Hussem, from the X-Cago company in Roermond who asked the question. A bit perplexed, Oberholzer talked on the phone with Hussem. They set up a meeting in the Netherlands, which resulted in a cooperative business establishment and a friendship.
Next to the impressive pictures by Oberholzer, the book includes a preface by Maurice Heemels, M.A., concerning the Christian and Roman Catholic burial culture of Limburg, the Netherlands and about thirty short written pieces by Loek Kreukels ,PhD about extraordinary Limburgian people and their graves including Toon Hermans, the ‘Zangeres zonder Naam’, Petrus Regout, Joep and Suzanne Nicolas, Victor de Steurs, Jan Klaassens and dr. Poels. The book also makes use of pre-existing visuals.
Text: Mr. Loek Kreukels PhD , Mr. Maurice Heemels M.A.