Part­ing Shot

Obie Ober­holzer gives us the new selfie. It’s called the shadie

South African Country Life - - In This Issue - www.obieober­

The re­lief of be­ing home again washed over me with the in­com­ing foam-capped waves, break­ing and rolling over my feel­ings of hap­pi­ness. Yet, I was splashed by a salty un­ease that lay churned up some­where in­side of me. I was in the wa­ters of the In­dian Ocean, just back from another weird and dis­tant world. Cam­bo­dia. One high­light in this com­plex coun­try was the en­thral­ment of pho­tograph­ing the big­gest re­li­gious com­plex built by mankind, the Hindu tem­ples of Angkor Wat.

Here, over a 400 square-kilo­me­tre area, the jun­gles of South­east

Asia hug hun­dreds of sand­stone tem­ples. Soon af­ter the gates to the world of an­cient won­der open, waves of tourists, mostly Chi­nese, spill over the main tem­ple of Angkor Wat in their thou­sands. It is now es­ti­mated that al­most three mil­lion tourists visit this UNESCO World Her­itage site ev­ery year.

I wit­nessed for my­self how cell­phone pho­tog­ra­phy has be­come the world’s big­gest hobby. Even worse, that man’s quest for self-im­por­tance and im­mor­tal­ity emerges in the tak­ing of self­ies. Most tourists care lit­tle for the beauty of this an­cient won­der, built by the Kh­mer Em­pire that ex­isted here be­tween the 9th and 11th cen­turies. In front of each stran­gler-fig-en­twined tem­ple, smil­ing faces looked back at a cell­phone for mil­lions at home to gawk at.

Ex­ces­sive cell­phone self-por­trayal has be­come a global pan­demic. My shock at these scenes drove me fur­ther into the tem­ple jun­gles, for here, in­deed, I could find some so­lace in one of the great­est places on Earth.

When I was a boy on our farm near Cul­li­nan, I was al­ways aware of how my shadow fol­lowed me dur­ing the pass­ing of the day. My mother, a Ger­man-Amer­i­can, once told me of an old In­dian tribal leg­end that said, ‘A man with no shadow is a dead man’. In the 1960s I started do­ing im­ages of my shadow. I called them ‘shadies’ back then. It never be­came a pop­u­lar hobby, and most peo­ple thought that it blended well with my of­ten weird and shady per­son­al­ity.

Two days ago, in a search for another image, I came across this pic­ture, a shadie done on one of the most iso­lated gravel roads in South Africa in ! "# dust be­tween Noe­nieput and Vrouenspan in the North­ern Cape. Weird, how the mem­ory of this scene came dust­ing back to me.

While I was bal­anc­ing on one fence pole, pho­tograph­ing my­self shoot­ing my shadow shoot­ing another pole’s shadow, a pass­ing farmer stopped his bakkie and watched me for a while. Then he shouted, “What the bled­die hell are you do­ing up on that pole?” Two crows, sit­ting above me on a sin­gle tele­phone wire also squawked quizzingly down at me. “Well, Me­neer,” I said, “I am try­ing to bal­ance out the fact that the good side of me wants to con­tinue north and my shad­owy side wants to go back to the women of Vrouenspan.”

He stood there a while longer, shak­ing his head, then he shouted the most won­der­fully bad word in the Afrikaans lan­guage. I fell off the pole and the crows shrieked up into the pale blue heav­ens above.

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