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Emancipation Park, Oxford Road and, Knutsford Blvd, Kingston

Emancipation Park is a public park located in Kingston, Jamaica. The park was opened on July 31, 2002 which was, the day before that year’s Emancipation Day in Jamaica. The then Prime Minister P.J Paterson had stated that the park was built to serve as a commemoration to the end of slavery during his address at the opening ceremony of the park.

Emancipation Park Art

The park measures an estimate of 6 acres and includes fountains and public art. The park is widely known because of the large sculpture known as Redemption Song ,located at the park’s main entrance . The sculpture was named after Bob Marley’s song of the same name. Redemption song measures 11 feet and is a Bronze Sculpture which was created by Jamaican artist Laura Facey.

The Redemption Song sculpture features the depictions of a male and a female figure gazing at the skies , symbolizing their triumphant rise from the mental and physical tortures of slavery. The statue was unveiled in July of 2003 to help in the celebration of the park’s first anniversary. Adinkra symbols can be seen in alot of paces in the park as a tribute and honour to the ancestors of Jamaicans who were transported to the island nation, from West Africa as slaves. Kamau Kambui is the architect who was responsible for using these symbols on the walls at the entrance, along the perimeter fence, the benches and garbage receptacles.

Recreation and tourism

Emancipation Park is situated in New Kingston, near the vicinity of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. During the mornings and evens both tourists and locals can be seen jogging on the recently installed, single running tracks. People also visit the park because of its ambiance and beauty which is as a result of of the brilliant landscaping and upkeeping of the park. Emancipation Park is a widely celebrated national treasure.

WELCOME TO EMANCIPATION PARK A TRIBUTE TO OUR FREEDOM

The morning breeze ushers in dawn’s new light as joggers commence the day’s ever-changing cycle. A rare jewel in the heart of Kingston city, Emancipation Park is a refuge for many who seek solitude and a soothing ambience away from the hustle and bustle of daily living. It’s an oasis where one can rejuvenate among its lush seven-acre landscape that symbolizes the legendary beauty of the island of Jamaica. Nature lovers can bask in the Park’s scenery lined with tropical flowers and trees such as the majestic Royal Palm, its branches stretching outwards beckoning to the skies. Art lovers can appreciate the beautifully crafted 11ft. bronze sculpture “Redemption Song” by celebrated Jamaican artist, Laura Facey that graces the ceremonial entrance of the Park. The opening of Emancipation Park in July 2002 is a significant milestone in the journey of our nation. The Park was created to be a symbol of our Freedom to Hope, to Excel and to Be.

HOW WE CELEBRATE EMANCIPATION DAY

On midnight of July 31, 1838 it was reported with great pride that many slaves journeyed to the hilltops to greet the sunrise of Friday, August 1, 1838 that symbolized a new beginning in their lives. When morning broke, large congregations joined in thanksgiving services held in several chapels and churches across the island.

Today, Jamaicans continue to celebrate Emancipation Day through the reenactment of the reading of the Emancipation Declaration in town centres particularly, Spanish Town, St. Catherine which was the seat of Parliament when the Emancipation Act was passed in 1838. The day is also widely observed as a national public holiday when all schools and public buildings are closed.

HISTORY OF EMANCIPATION PARK

Before examining the history of Emancipation Park, we must first look at the history of the Liguanea Plain in St. Andrew where the Park now stands.

After the devastating earthquake of 1692 in Port Royal, several English settlers recognized the enormous value of the Liguanea Plain in St. Andrew. Following the earthquake, a wealthy sugar plantation owner named Colonel Beeston sold 2,000 acres of the lands on the plain to the British colonial government for the re-development of Kingston. Before then, Port Royal had been the centre of Jamaica’s bustling commercial activities.

During the post-emancipation period and the decline of the sugar plantations, several Jamaicans living in the rural areas as well as immigrants from countries such as China, Lebanon, Syria and India, flocked the city of Kingston by the thousands in search of better working conditions and business opportunities.

As Kingston’s population mushroomed, many merchants who previously lived above their business places in central Kingston relocated to the upper circles of the Liguanea Plain now known as “uptown”. The earthquake of 1907, further encouraged migration from Downtown Kingston to St. Andrew – Kingston now being divided into two parishes (Kingston and St. Andrew) because of its immense growth. As the business activities and persons who were then considered being from the “upper crust of the society” shifted to St. Andrew, there was now a need for social and sporting activities uptown.

This major shift saw 85 acres of land including the long stretch of land from Knutsford Boulevard to Oxford Road being developed as the Knutsford Park Race Course where horseracing and polo matches were held. The racecourse was later bought out by a conglomerate of businessmen who envisioned this site as a “city built within a city”, hence the name New Kingston.

The Liguanea Club, a recreational and social club for the upper class in society, located on Knutsford Boulevard, owned over 35 acres of land including the former Liguanea Park now the site of Emancipation Park. The Club gave the land measuring seven acres as a gift to the Jamaican Government, which later debated on what to do with this prime piece of property.

Several government members argued that the land should be converted into a business district, while others felt a multi-functional entertainment complex should be built on the site. The large financial input needed for either venture, was not forthcoming. In 2002 Cabinet granted approval for the transfer of the land to the National Housing Trust on the condition that a park was built and maintained at that location. The land was transferred for one Jamaican dollar. In July 2002, Emancipation Park materialized and proudly stands as a Kingston landmark and an excellent metaphor of the resilience and strength of the Jamaican people.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF EMANCIPATION PARK FROM DUSTBOWL TO TROPICAL OASIS

The development of Emancipation Park reads like a famous Cinderella story. For decades, the Liguanea Park stood dusty and bare, bereft of any beauty or character. It was essentially a vast open piece of land where many six-a-side football matches were played and Jamaica Carnival revelers could be seen gyrating to the riveting sound of the soca beat preceding the big road march in April.

Then along came its fairy godmother, the National Housing Trust (NHT), committed to transforming the seven-acre dustbowl into a tropical oasis in the heart of Kingston. The NHT Board of Directors together with the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable PJ Patterson, visualized creating a park in the city where Jamaicans and visitors alike could relax and play. This was however not going to be like any other park, it would instead be a masterpiece of beauty with exquisite plants, lush gardens and rejuvenating water features.

The team to develop this project was carefully handpicked by the NHT, which spared no resources in providing Kingston with a world-class landmark. The project team was given a tight deadline of three months to execute the project and turn the dream of creating a beautiful park into reality.

Architect Kamau Kambui, armed with detailed research of Jamaica’s history chose to create the Park with an influence of Afro-centric designs, hence the significant presence of Adinkra symbols from West Africa being sited throughout the Park. Kambui, noted that these symbols along with the various water features would serve to awaken the spirit of Jamaicans and allow them to reconnect with their rich African heritage.

The main entrance of the Park located at the corner of Oxford Road and Knutsford Boulevard, was specifically designed to depict “the birth passage and the process of traveling back to our roots” said Kambui. Also worthy of note is the Park’s professionally designed 500m jogging track that has enticed joggers and other fitness enthusiasts who start their daily fitness regime from as early as 5a.m. each day.

THE FLORA OF EMANCIPATION PARK

The flora of Emancipation Park ideally captures the legendary beauty of this tropical island surrounded by the deep blue Caribbean Sea. The landscape of the Park includes a wide variety of flowering plants and trees such as the majestic Royal Palm, the Bull Thatch Palm, the National Flower of Jamaica, the Lignum Vitae and the National Tree of Jamaica, the Blue Mahoe. Adding to this picture perfect setting are the Bougainvilleas, Poor Man’s Orchid, Poinciana and Poui trees. The colourful array of flowers and trees were chosen to depict the joy of Emancipation. Recently added to the Park’s flora are five rose beds with over eight varieties of rose plants for nature lovers to enjoy. Here we showcase a few of the plants and trees that are prominently featured in the Park.

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