An addict of sight lurks in the Covid night – this is 2020 South Africa through a lockdown lens

An addict of sight lurks in the Covid night – this is 2020 South Africa through a lockdown lens
My rock collection with a brass crab bought in Cuba. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

During South Africa’s initial three-week lockdown, I ventured out into the dark beyond with my Canon, sneaked into early nights and eerie dark nights before dawn and captured these images.

At the beginning of 2020, South Africa was befallen by more angst, and the grinding of teeth could be heard throughout the land.

To start with, our President was robbed of about $4-million, which he had concealed in the couches on his cattle ranch at Phala Phala near Bela-Bela.

Then the Covid pandemic flew in to spread its deadly tentacles nationwide. On 27 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a State of National Disaster and a total lockdown, a confinement of all citizens to their homes. From palaces to huts, from mansions to shacks, all were consigned to a jailed isolation. This internment, a national quarantine, affected us all in various ways.

Personally, as a traveller and a wanderer, I initially went through some mental wobbles, like an addict without drugs, like a drunkard without booze. I wandered around the house, smashing my fists against the wall, like in the movies. I kicked things, yelled obscenities and peered with bleary eyes over the fence into the road and prohibited territory.

lockdown lens

‘Jeez,’ the hand with the camera says, and adds: ‘That’s quite some light abstraction.’ (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

Then, with a maddened tinge in my eyes, I started rummaging through the racks of oddities in my studio. Millions of old Zimbabwean dollar notes, bits of the Berlin Wall and rusted World War 1 bullets from the battlefields of the Somme.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Photographic memories of Covid-19 through the eyes of young people

Then I found some frankincense crystals that I had bought in Yemen. When lit, the smoke has a heavenly perfumed aroma that was soon curling up from a plate on my desk. The smoke joined my illusionary thoughts of perhaps telling the Mother Mary that I was in trouble, if she wasn’t busy at the Vatican, or perhaps seeing Julia Roberts waving me a hand to come hither.

Through all this incense of delights, I heard Lynn yelling in the far distance that I was being an arsehole, acting worse than a naughty three-year-old, and not a mellow 73-year-old grandfather. What about a kiss and a cuddle, I breathed out warmly? She scowled and said I should go and play marbles or canasta. That’s when some spooky spirit entered me, almost miraculously, if I dare say so. I stroked my Canon’s body and revisited, visualised and pictured again a few of the many artefacts in our house.

lockdown lens

A large yellowwood tree moved down the Salt River during a flood in the late 1990s. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

‘Bones are patient. Bones never tire nor do they run away. When you come upon a man who has been dead many years, his bones will still be lying there, in place, content, patiently waiting, but his flesh will have gotten up and left him’ (Tom Robbins). (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

With a spiked sobriety, I viewed and studied the beauty of line and shape, imagining what wonders a wand of light can do. Soon after, I followed the call of the naughty spooks and ventured out into the dark beyond, sneaked into early nights, midnights and eerie dark nights before dawn. I hid in the bushes when a police van passed, then followed my eyes along paths into the dark of the Afromontane forests that surround Nature’s Valley.

My powerful hunting torch of 10,000 lumens sprayed its light down our small village roads, moonlit rocks on the beach and logs that had washed down the river from the Tsitsikamma Mountains. Here are some of those images that I took over the three weeks of total lockdown in 2020.

This is an overkill, an excessive compulsion, for as fate would have it, I am an addict of sight. DM

Thirty-second exposure at a small aperture just before dawn at the nearby Salt River. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

Towards the Fast end of the beach, where the Otter Trail comes down, there are three gullies that enter into the mountain. The furthest one can only be reached at the lowest neap tide. It enters the mountain and darkens into a thin passage after about 50m. These rocks are almost in the dark and take on a surreal colour brightness when lit with a torch. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

A 300mm telephoto lens with a 20-second exposure of the Blue Rocks at Nature’s Valley. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

Copied directly from Wikipedia, so don’t shoot me. I am just the photographer: Pyenoporus coccineus is a saprophytic, white-rot decomposer fungus. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

Now let’s both stand in the road and I’ll get the setting moon in and you project the shadows of aloes on St George’s Street. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

Moon behind Grandfather’s Beard and creepers in the Afromontane forests along the Garden Route. (Photo: Obie Oberholzer)

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options