The Alte Feste
Unraveling the History of Alte Feste: The Oldest Fortress in Windhoek
In the heart of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, stands an emblem of historical significance and resilience: The Alte Feste. This architectural marvel serves not only as a fortress but also as a museum, curating a blend of the past and present, military might, and artistic finesse of African Art.
The Birth of a Fortress and an Era
The blueprint of this fortress was conceived by Captain Curt von François with an intention for it to serve as the bastion for the imperial German Schutztruppe during the German colonization of South West Africa. The choice of Windhoek, a location desolate and entirely obliterated at the time, was strategic. It was seen as a buffer zone between the rivalling Nama and Herero tribes. Despite its military inception, the fort never witnessed direct engagement in combat.
The foundation stone of Alte Feste was laid on October 18, 1890, by private Gustav Tünschel of the Schutztruppe. The building underwent several design modifications in its early years, with its final layout only materializing in 1915. The fortress features an enclosed courtyard, high walls, and in-house accommodation for the troops, all fortified by four towers. This remarkable structure holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving building in Windhoek, around which the city progressively developed.
From Military Might to a Bastion of African Art
Post World War I, the fortress experienced a shift in rulership. The South African Army occupied Windhoek in March 1915, and the Alte Feste morphed into the military headquarters for the South African Union troops.
1935 marked a departure from its military role as the fort was repurposed as a hostel for the neighbouring Windhoek High School. Despite showing signs of severe dilapidation, the Alte Feste was declared a National Monument in 1957, signifying its importance in the country's cultural and historical tapestry.
An extensive renovation in 1963 breathed new life into the building, transforming it into the National Museum of African Modern Art of Namibia. This institution now celebrates the vibrancy and depth of African Art, contributing significantly to the African Museum culture.
In 2010, the famed equestrian monument of Windhoek, the Reiterdenkmal, found its place in front of the Alte Feste. However, this monument was relocated into storage in 2013.
In its journey from a colonial military fortress to a beacon of African Art and culture, the Alte Feste stands as a testament to the evolving narrative of Namibia, making it a must-visit destination for any African Museum enthusiast.
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