In the span of ten years, what started as a minor commercial enterprise in a faraway African territory grew into an important extension of the German state. This article reorients our understanding of the relationship between the Kaiserreich and its overseas empire, specifically with a focus on Captain Hendrik Witbooi and on how the Witbooi Namaqua he led influenced the evolution of German imperial rule in Southwest Africa between 1884 and 1894. Witbooi's refusal to accept imperial authority compelled colonial officials to confront their administrative limitations in the colony. When the façade of imperial fantasy gave way to colonial reality, German administrators expanded the size and scope of the imperial government to subdue the Namaqua. The article emphasizes the appointments of Landeshauptmann Curt von François and Governor Theodor Leutwein as critical examples of Witbooi's impact on imperial policy, as well as the colonial administration's embrace of military violence to attain German supremacy in Southwest Africa. An emphasis on the Witbooi Namaqua illustrates the prominent role of Africans in German colonial history and exposes how peoples in distant places like Windhoek and Otjimbingwe manipulated official efforts to control and exploit the colony.