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Home South Africa|December 2020/January 2021
Sutherland’s first parsonage was meticulously restored to its former glory – then a ‘witch’ took up residence.
Shané Barnard

WHO LIVES HERE? Marné Marais and her Boerboel, Voodoo

WHERE Sutherland, Northern Cape

SIZE 200m2

In the middle of Sutherland, in the shadow of the Dutch Reformed Church, stands a house that at first glance seems a bit out of place. With black exterior walls and a woman on a broomstick instead of the traditional weathervane on the roof, Die Heks se Huis (The Witch’s House), where Marné Marais lives, is in stark contrast to the other homes –some built with Karoo stone, others painted white – in this small town.

While on the lookout for a place with authentic Karoo charm, Marné fell in love with this historic house that dates back to 1905. “I visited every Karoo town within a 350km radius of Cape Town in search of a house that spoke to me. When I came across this one in Sutherland, it was only the second time in my life that I had set foot in the town,” she says.

Since the Dutch Reformed Church bought the house from the first missionary, Reverend Gabriel Johannes Viviers, in 1908 it has seen quite a few alterations at the hands of the owners. It has been a doctor’s consulting room, a boarding house and a guesthouse.

“The house was in a terrible state when I bought it,” recalls Marné. “And it was painted a greenish colour. At that stage I had no money to sandblast the place and restore it to a stone building, so I simply painted over the green.

“The only items in the house at the time were a tiny wardrobe in the bedroom and a basin in the kitchen. My mother was mortified when she first saw it.” But Marné had a vision to restore the house to its former glory.

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