A ‘First Encounter’ of Kenya


Two Kenyan-born models wearing the traditional garb of their native land and a Kenyan-born fashion designer will be part of a reception honoring a Greenwood photographer and his photographs of the people and wildlife of the African nation of Kenya Thursday afternoon at the Union County Arts Council Art Gallery.

Since July 8 and running through Aug. 18, “First Encounter,” a collection of the photographs taken by George Ligon during a 15-day safari in Kenya in 2013 are currently on display at the UCAC Art Gallery on Main Street in downtown Union. A reception for Ligon and his work will be held at the Art Gallery on Thursday from 5-7 p.m.

The reception is being held in honor of Ligon who will be present to talk about his experiences in Kenya during the safari and the subject of the photos on display. On display at the Art Gallery are photos of the various animals Ligon and his wife encountered during the safari including Lions, Impalas, and Elephants, including a female elephant that Ligon said was the first African wildlife he encountered in Kenya.

“My wife and I and the safari we were part of visited six game reserves,” Ligon said Friday. “At the reserves we resided in tentalos, permanent structured tents beautifully appointed inside with carved wooden doors, marble sinks, and terraces and verandas where we could sit and see the elephants come up and water.

“It was at the first game reserve of the six we visited that I had my first encounter with African wildlife,” he said. “She was a large female elephant and she was grazing at the Sumburu Intrepid Game Reserve. This is what gave me the name for the exhibit.”

First Encounter is the name of both the exhibit and the picture of the elephant which is on display at the Art Gallery.

In addition to being fascinated by the wildlife of the country, Ligon said he was charmed by the people of Kenya.

“The inhabitants are very warm and accommodating,” Ligon said. “There’s a photo in First Encounter of a boy on a fence smiling and waving. My wife and I were riding past a farm and he saw us and ran out to the fence and smiled and waved at us and said ‘Jambo’ which means hello or welcome.”

He said he was also impressed by the people of Kenya because of their commitment to protecting the wildlife of their country.

“They don’t allow game hunting,” Ligon said. “They have armed guards who go into the game reserves at night to protect the wildlife from poachers. I love it that they do that.”

In addition to encountering the people and wildlife of Kenya through his photos, the people of Union County will also have the opportunity to encounter the people of Kenya in person as three Kenyan natives will be taking part in the reception.

Ligon said that Kenyan-born fashion designer Sarah Odingo and two Kenyan-born models will be at the reception, with the models wearing traditional Kenyan garb. He said they will also be there to interact with those in attendance and talk about their culture, their people, and family life in Kenya.

While it has been three years since he visited Kenya, Ligon said his experience there was a wonderful one and that he hopes to visit the country again. Before doing so, however, he said he and his wife plan to visit some other places on their “bucket list” including Italy, Alaska, Asia, and other parts of Africa such as South Africa and Namibia. He said that when they do again travel to Africa, it is his hope that their journey will again take them to Kenya.

Ligon urged those that can do so to visit Kenya and the rest of Africa, an experience that he said will change you forever.

“It was my first trip to Africa and it was an amazing experience and I would do it again,” he said. “No matter what your ethnic background when you travel through Africa it leaves you humbled and changed.”