Rolling down hills and watching the sun rise on New Year’s Day: Uhuru Park, Nairobi
September 2, 2020
This contribution from Minaz Asani Kanji is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.
What kid doesn’t love rolling down a hill? For me, the best hill rolling was in Uhuru Park in Nairobi. My mum would take me and my sisters to Uhuru park on the bus. We’d climb to the top of the hill and let ourselves go, giggling all the way down. If you went fast enough you could get to the bottom in one roll, if you didn’t, you’d have to stop and start several times. Either way, we loved it and once we got to the bottom we’d rush back up to roll back down again.
There was a small lake in the middle of the park that you could go boating in. We’d sit on the grass watching people in the boats go by wishing that could be us, but I think all my mum thought about was how she’d fish us out if we fell in.
Whenever we had playdates or had family or friends come to visit, we’d take them to Uhuru Park to admire the park’s idyllic views of the City.. We kids climbed the arched frames one by one: there was a small one, a medium one and a large one. We always tried climbing the biggest one because being on top of it felt absolutely exhilarating.
Uhuru Park had professional photographers stationed at different points in the park. They had albums on display filled with people posing in the park. My mum took us to take photos in the park on the first day of Primary school, all dressed up in our crisp new school uniforms.
The park was built after Kenya’s independence from the British and given the name Uhuru which means freedom. Independence Day celebrations took place in the park and we would watch the marches, the traditional Kenyan dances and politicians’ speeches on television. I remember watching the first President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta give his speech and at the end of it yelling his signature ‘Harambee’ which is the motto of Kenya and means “all pull together”. He’d yell it three times swinging his fly whisk above his head and all the thousands of people gathered would yell back each time ‘Hey’.
One of my last memories of Uhuru Park was on New Year’s Day 1987 when I watched the sunrise at 6 am. My friend and I decided we would run down that same stepped terrace my sisters and I had rolled down as kids. So we left our shoes in the car at the top of the hill and ran down the hill and by the time we came back the car had been broken into and the shoes were gone. That year, we greeted the new year with bare feet.
Photo Credit: Alejandro Cacares
About Minaz Asani Kanji
Minaz Asani-Kanji is Park People’s Manager of Outreach. She grew up in Kenya and is an Environmentalist. She manages the Sparking Change program and has worked with 90 local groups in Toronto’s underserved communities to help make their parks more vibrant and their neighbourhoods stronger.
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This contribution from Minaz Asani Kanji is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.Choose Another Park Story