Otjimbingwe

Once the administrative centre of German South West Africa, now a forgotten, dusty village in the bush, Otjimbingwe is situated south of Karibib at the junction of the Swakop and Omusema rivers. Opinions on the origins of the name of the town differ, the most common meaning given being 'place of refreshment', referring to the spring in the Omusema River.

Background

The town rose to prominence due to its position on an established ox-wagon route half-way between Windhoek and Walvis Bay. A mission station was established here in 1849 by the Rhenish missionary, Johannes Rath, although it was not until 1867 that the first church was built. However, it was Otjimbingwe's role as a trading post that made it an important centre.

In 1854, the Walvisch Bay Mining Company had made the settlement its head- quarters after the discovery of copper in the area. A trading post was set up and soon a roaring trade, typical of the time, was going on in arms, ammunition, alcohol and livestock. In 1860, the hunter, explorer and trader Charles John Andersson established his headquarters here, the first permanent trading post in the area. His subsequent involvement in the Herero-Nama wars to defend his trade routes was significant in drawing the small European population into Namibian tribal conflict, and further focused attention on Otjimbingwe.

After Curt von François moved his small garrison to Windhoek in 1890, the town started to decline and, following the construction of the narrow-gauge railway between Windhoek and Swakopmund in 1902 which bypassed the town, Otjimbingwe became increasingly irrelevant. A few historical monuments do still make the town of interest to students of 19th-century Namibian history.

Sights

The
church
, completed in 1867, is the oldest to have been built to serve the Herero community. Although Herero leader Zeraua was not himself a Christian, he arranged for 10,000 bricks to be made for the church. As with other early mission stations, the church doubled as place of worship and mini-fort during the on-off Herero-Nama wars of the time. The tower was only added later in 1899.

The
old powder magazine
, an 8-m tower, was originally built by the Mission- handelgesellschaft, or mission station trading company, to protect its goods during attacks by the Nama. Following the collapse of the company in 1882, the tower passed into the hands of the Hälbich trading firm.

The
wind motor
was put up in 1896 by the Hälbich family in order to generate power for their machinery in the wagon factory next door. The motor also pumped water to the settlement from a nearby fountain.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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