My name is Dot and I live on Mr. Wilson’s dairy farm on the lush plateau above Natures Valley. Well, actually I have two plastic name clips on my ears that read Dot, so all the really pompous Jerseys in the herd call me Dottie because I am a little crazy and something of a vagabond. Some tourists that visit our farm stall take pictures of me and call me a lovely Nguni. The problem with being a designer African Nguni cow is that you might end up as a skin on a white wall in a fancy apartment overlooking the Elba River in Hamburg. At least I am not called Spottie like the farm’s irritating Jack Russel. But, to be honest, I sometimes get tired of standing in my own dung in a long queue, to then have my teats plucked at. One day, I escaped from the fields and headed south, on a long journey. Getting past Knysna was difficult and I had to keep on high ground above the town. In my rather bovine view of things I saw what human greed and development have done to this little, once quaint coastal town. Now monster trucks rumble through the main street and the place is clogged up with traffic and tourists. Near Mossel Bay, a herd of Herefords asked me whether I thought I was re-enacting the folk tale of Huberta the Hippo, who once travelled from Natal down to the Cape. I ignored them, because I am not fat and blubbery like a hippo and in any case, hippos have this disgusting habit of using their tails to flap their excrement all over the place. Along the coast past Gouritzmond the landscape got really bleak, kak and grey, ominous dark clouds were patching together overhead. That night, whilst sleeping on the dark desolate veld, I had a nightmare. I saw other dotted type cows glaring down on me with hateful thoughts and grunts. It was a surreal colourless world, devoid of green and happiness. Two days later, Mr. Wilson, found me and took me back to my luscious fields and obnoxious Jersey friends. The patches of cow dung still streaked all over his pants was comforting and sharing the back of the bakkie with an irritation called Spottie made me hum a country song.

African Nguni cattle stand along a country road between the coastal villages of Gouritzmond and Stilbaai of the Cape South Coast. The storm clouds of a cold front approaches from a south-westerly direction.

Parting shot. Diesel and Dust

From most travellers’ perspectives, the word ‘distance’ often links or compliments ‘space’. The greater the distance between two points, the smaller the dot of ‘Self’ becomes and the greater the feeling of freedom. It is often said that a distance travelled is a celebration of one’s own journey of freedom. When one travels far, enormity in distance and the surrounds of space, bring about an enhanced feeling of tranquillity, where the mind can levitate outside of the physical self. Embracing the jubilation of freedom is not so much about getting to a destined point, but rather passing through the enthrallment of motion, of moving and travelling, be it driving, walking, running or cycling. I guess that it’s in the human psyche, a need to know what lies at infinity, what’s at a point far yonder, the ultimate point of purpose, somewhere over the horizon? It’s a quest for some of the mysteries to life itself. As a photographer I travel along a wayward road rather to sketch the journey that to search for the answer at the end. For indeed, the greatest treasures sometimes lie on the smallest roads.. So this is not a parting shot, it’s much more of a distance shot. I stop my bakkie, exactly here, on the Namibian road D1998— at 23°14’ 13.31” South and 15° 35’ 13.78” East, facing exactly north. A slow 180° spin around, encompasses hundreds of square kilometres as my eyes feed in information too grandiose for the mind to perceive. It is so wide and wondrous that I am lifted by the sky. My minuteness in space is a celebration of life and the rejuvenation of all my senses. This place is so quiet it is almost loud. It is so far away that all the hugeness around me cuddles me in closeness. I can touch the spiritual. I am just the diesel and the dust, a mere humbled observer on a dusty track through space. Heaven on earth is a long gravel road. Slowly, I turn the circle again, running my eyes along the horizon’s pale brown-blue lines. My continent’s dust lies in my pores; its diesel fuels my visual songs and somewhere over the horizon, tonight’s fire beneath a starry sky, is worth a thousand pictures.

The C14 Road aout 60 kilometers west of Walvis Bay in a direction to Kuiseb Point. Namib-Naukluft Park.


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.

The Bucket List

I call my friend Dan, Beterweet. That means Know-all in another one of our 11 official languages. We are sitting on a bench that has been placed high on a sand dune in memory of a local resident. It’s a dazzling beauty of a day looking out over the beach and the Indian Ocean. We are talking about ‘kicking the bucket’. Beterweet, tells me that the phrase is probably an old prison term, used when a prisoner would stand on the cell’s (shit*) bucket to commit suicide, by hanging, then a cellmate would kick the bucket out from underneath him. I tell him that I will be 71 years old next August. He smirks that he has known that for 50 years. After grieving joyfully about some of our friends who have kicked the bucket, whilst watching Cormorants and seagulls fly past our pristine view, I start talking about my bucket list. It seems a popular theme of late, even featured in a number of SA magazines. Beterweet chuckles and says that I can’t have a bucket list because there is a hole in my bucket. There is a short vibration from the bench beneath us. I ignore all this and start talking to myself, and the few Country Life readers who might still be reading ‘Parting Shot’. I would like, for once, to write the opening shot, go to the spectator’s gallery in parliament wearing a blue overall, go for a swim on Durban’s Kings Beach on Christmas Day, photograph in Afghanistan and if they haven’t kidnapped my bucket, travel to the Hindu Kush, (Dan and I attempted this in 1968, but due to severe snowstorms, only made it as far as Anatolia), sing a last song in a rock band, drive the Gun Barrel Highway across central Australia, return to the centre of the world, the Hotazel Bottle store in Hotazel, then wait for the first tourist to stop there and ask him for money for a halwe broodjie, have 3 of the best Guinness’ in Dublin, but almost top of my list is driving back up the Ongeluks Nek Pass again. It was years ago, sometime in the early 1980’s. I still remember clearly, skidding and spinning out more on the donkey and mule dung than the mud. On the top of the Ongeluk’s Nek, I took this photograph. Full bucket.


Parting Shot. The Grey Chlorocebus pygerythrus

After a lengthy study I discovered that ‘Chloro’ means green and ‘Cebus’ indicates a genus of monkey. Add Pygerythrus after Chlorocebus and you get those awfully cute mammals called Vervet monkeys that have black faces and grey bodies. There are millions throughout Africa and where I live they often come to visit, chattering in the trees and thieving everything edible from us Homo sapiens. Being a pictorial colourist, I find the blue colour of some of the larger males’ testicles fascinating. This luminous blue colouring apparently occurs in the dominant males. So, in macho males terms, the bluer the better. Biologists once experimented when they painted a non-dominant male’s testicles blue. After letting him go back into the troop, he immediately started to take over as the dominant male. I do not, however, have any verification of this experiment. In terms of colour, the top Vervet-boys have a suspended scrotum sack that looks greenie-blue or turquoise. Some colourists call it Cyan, a colour between blue and green in the visible spectrum; the complimentary colour of red; the colour obtained by subtracting red from white light. Not long ago, I found a large male monkey sunning himself on my gutter, surrounded by attentive, jabbering females. Lucky bugger, I thought, should I get some colour back into my life? Paint parts of my body blue? Then, with some careful stalking, I managed to take this picture with a long lens of him lounging in my gutter. The image, as it appears here, has not been colour enhanced with Photoshop. With my digital colour meter I measured that his jewels measured 56 parts Red, 112 Green and 176 Blue. That, simplified, would be almost exactly two parts blue and one part green. Then the Chlorocebus Pygerythrus clattered his teeth at me, gave me the finger, and joined his harem in the trees beneath the blue African sky.

The testicals of a Vervet Monkey explains the name given to it in Afrikaans: Blou Aap.