The Maasai Cricket Warriors are visiting Nottingham from their home in Kenya as part of a tour to play cricket and raise awareness of injustices.
Rhianna Jones from Beeston was selected to play for them in a community cricket event, as part of the Nottinghamshire Under-12s squad.
The Maasai Cricket Warriors were formed in 2007. They encourage youngsters in their community to be active, by teaching the basics of cricket in local schools.
However, the team also use their platform to bring light to some very serious issues: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is very present in the Maasai community and often causes physical and psychological damage for entire lifetimes.
They also focus on raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse within their community.
In 2016, Nottingham became the first city in Europe to declare Zero Tolerance to FGM. Following this, councillor Morris, as well as members of Mojatu Foundation – who, amongst other things, advocate for the eradication of FGM – visited Kenya.
They sought to “understand and reason with the communities to find ways to help by working alongside them and looking for alternatives”.
Mojatu organised the tour as part of a cultural exchange. It didn’t consist exclusively of cricket – there was a music and fashion night, a formal dinner at Belvoir Castle and other events which all showcased the cultures of both the Maasai and their hosts.
The community cricket day was held at Victoria Embankment. As well as cricket, there were stalls selling traditional Maasai jewellery, bags and trinkets: all made from glass beads by Kenyan women. Traditional food was also on sale.
The morning began with some cricket from a youth all-stars team, children aged four to eight, who also did some training drills with the Maasai.
Nottinghamshire Under-12s played cricket for them, along with other teams. Afterwards, there was lots of friendly conversation and a game between the Maasai and an amateur team.
Rhianna, who has been playing cricket for seven years, said: “It was a very unique experience.
“We learnt about the Maasai at school but I’d never heard of the cricket team. They were all really friendly and down to Earth”
One of the Maasai, Robert, talked about how his community discovered cricket and said: “A lady from South Africa came and did a workshop with us to teach us cricket.
“When she went home, we made our own team so now lots of us play. Before, everyone did athletics and no one had heard of cricket.”
They liken the skills used in cricket to the ones they have honed from years of hunting. The speed the ball moves across the strip is astounding; their long arms, used to spear throwing, are adept at bowling. They field fearlessly, and often play without helmets.
Strikingly, they wear traditional clothing when playing: red Shukas, and bright, beaded jewellery around their heads, arms and torsos. It is evident that they are passionate and celebratory of their culture.
For more information on the Maasai Cricket Warriors Team and their work, visit www.maasaicricket.com.
By Carys Jones