The Alte Feste is one of the oldest buildings in Windhoek and currently serves as a fortress and museum. The cornerstone of this monument was laid in 1890, where the Alte Feste served as a military headquarters in 1915 and then as a hostel for the Windhoek High School in 1935. It was then declared as a National Monument in 1957.
The Alte Feste now houses the state museum, where the historic independence Collection, reflecting events leading up to the independence of Namibia, can be seen.
History of the Alte Feste
The building was designed by Captain Curt von François to serve as headquarters of the imperial German Schutztruppe during the German colonization of South West Africa.
The location of Windhoek, which was deserted and destroyed at that time, was chosen because the Germans felt it would serve as a buffer zone between the Nama and Herero tribes. The fort was, however, never involved in any military action.
The foundation was laid on 18 October 1890 by then Schutztruppe private Gustav Tünschel. The first section was completed in 1892, and an extension was later added in 1901. The building was redesigned multiple times during the first years until its final layout, which was only completed in 1915.
In 1904, during the Nama and Herero uprisings, European women and children of Windhoek took refuge in the fort. Once the German colonial forces secured Windhoek, a concentration camp was set up between the fort and the Tintenpalast.
The Alte Feste consisted of an inner courtyard with high walls, four towers and accommodation for the troops on the inside. Alte Feste is the oldest surviving building in the city of Windhoek, which subsequently developed around it.
In 2010, the Reiterdenkmal, Windhoek’s prominent equestrian monument and alleged symbol of German dominance in the region, was placed in front of Alte Feste. It was then removed and placed in storage on Christmas Day in 2013.
The architecture of the Alte Feste
The fort is located high on a hill, overlooking the central area of Windhoek. The fort was originally rectangular-shaped, measuring 62 meters in length and 35 meters in width. The four corners were built into four towers. The two on the eastern walls were 9 meters high and the two of the western walls measured 6 meters in height.
Built on plans by German Major Curt von François, the former headquarters of the German forces now houses the National History Museum.
The collection on the events of the struggle for independence and the place of ethnic groups in history has been partly moved to the new Independence Museum building, but the other rooms dedicated to rock paintings and engravings found in Namibia remain intact and interesting.
The Alte Feste Independence Museum
The Alte Feste museum is situated on a high point overlooking the central business district of Windhoek and is well worth a visit. The exhibitions will walk you through a brief, but informative history of Namibia from the coming of the Germans in 1884, their occupation of the land, to the subsequent uprisings and struggles by Namibians for independence from colonial rule.
The national museum’s historical display centre, with exhibits from the colonial and postcolonial periods, includes numerous military items and an interesting section on Namibia’s first democratic election and important patriots of the Namibian revolution.
The Independence Memorial Museum is located on Robert Mugabe Avenue between two buildings of the German colonial period, the Christuskirche and the colonial citadel, the Alte Feste.
The museum sits on a small slope between the two structures, and according to the historian Reihard Kossler, has broken up the ensemble of German monuments in Windhoek.
The museum is open seven days a week from 09h00 – 18h00 during summer and 09h00 – 17h00 during winter, except on public holidays. No entry fee is charged, however a small donation would be appreciated.
— Innocentia Ranyaoa, Fizzin