Colourful Port Nolloth Home

PHOTOS Greg Cox PRODUCTION Etienne Hanekom WORDS Johan van Zyl

The inhospitable Richtersveld coast is home to an extraordinary development that seamlessly melds this arid World Heritage Site with architecture, installation art and the rural community.

Port Nolloth is an odd kind of place. In the solid light of day, some of its working-class homes look distinctly forlorn. But some mornings, as the malmokkie – a thick bank of mist that often settles over the town for the entire day – pushes inland from the Atlantic Ocean, the fishermen and diamond divers’ stories are given a twist, wooden shacks become palaces and, miraculously, mosaic letters spell out residents’ names on walls.

It is precisely this cool haziness, even at the height of summer, that drew Jimmy and Annelize du Toit, an attorney and a mathematical statistician, here in 1991. In 2000, they initiated the ambitious KaiKai residential development in partnership with the Richtersveld municipality. The Nama word for “to cultivate, to elevate with praise or to nurture with pride”, KaiKai is no ordinary residential development. A strong emphasis is placed on uplifting the surrounding community by not only using local labour and materials, but also through the Gaudi-inspired Wall of Expression. 

The “border-shifting” boundary wall adorned with tile and quartz mosaics now almost surrounds the development without cutting it off from the rest of the community. Residents have depicted their dreams and aspects of their daily lives on it. Still a work in progress, the wall now bears 7 500 names of Port Nolloth’s 12 000 residents.

“Jimmy’s got a thing for art,” says Annelize. This is evidenced by the mosaics that continue inside the Du Toits’ own beach house, designed by architect Chris Wilkinson and built by Piet Malgas. 

It was Jimmy who designed the kelp-forest pattern in the guest bathroom and that of the master bedroom’s en-suite bathroom. He also created the expanse of red mosaics in the kitchen – an abstract of the dorsal fins of edible fish found in local waters. 

The living room is home to two more of Jimmy’s creations: A bookcase made of thick wooden beams and paper-thin steel, and wall panels he describes as “three-dimensional interpretations of  Piet Mondrian paintings”. 

“Port Nolloth isn’t Plett or Umhlanga. We like to turn things upside down – including common ideas of what a beach house should look like,” explains Annelize.   

Jimmy du Toit,