Meet the Maasai
In a fantastic and inadvertent display of globalization, Maasai warriors from East Africa have embraced the notably British sport of cricket. It may be wonderful to see cultures mingling on the playing field, but reciprocation seems to be in order. A trip to Kenya is a fantastic opportunity to meet this iconic African tribe and the rugged, rich landscape that has shaped their way of life and, apparently, their cricket skills.
The Maasai is a pastoral tribe from East Africa whose members' striking visual presence - tall, thin, athletic, clad in scarlet robes - may already be familiar. Long anti-agricultural, steeped in tribal custom, they have been romanticized by many over the past couple of centuries, including the likes of Ernest Hemingway, but Western imperialism and pressures to modernize have stripped the Maasai of much of their former glory. Originally a nomadic tribe, they have been forced to set up more permanent villages, and much of the youth flocks to cities to escape enduring poverty.
With a bit of friendliness, an open mindset or perhaps the help of a private tour, you can both see some of their enduring customs as well as meet Maasai going about their day business as usual. Indeed, it is still possible to see Maasai warriors roaming the fields of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. There are also volunteer opportunities to work closely with the Maasai, as their educational and medical infrastructure are in need of support.
A Constantly Changing Culture
There is more to see of the Maasai, however, than just the old way of life and their modern-day struggles. The Maasai are gaining traction economically by putting their assets - milk and animals - to self-sustaining entrepreneurial use. Some communities have set up milk processing plants under the guidance of tribal leader Saningo Kariongi, which has given way to energy firms and other potential business ventures.
"Culture is not static; culture is dynamic, it grows; it's like a fire - in order for the fire to keep on burning and giving light and heat, somebody has to be putting new fire wood,"said Kariongi of his work.
These new business efforts could finally put the Maasai way of life in better step with the modern world without completely obliterating traditional customs. What that culture will look like years from now, only time will tell.