Capoeira Culture in ‘the Diaspora’

Until a couple of months ago I heard only once or twice about events about capoeira, which neither workshops nor batizados, but Cultural Events. Then I heard of the 1. Capoeira Film Festival which was organized in Amsterdam in the beginning of this year. When I heard of this I was immediately intrigued.

The day I heard about the film festival I knew I will go to that place. And I did. This is a list of movies which were shown:

  • The fine flower of street wisdom (A fina flor do malandragem) – Mestre Leopoldinha. by Rose La Creta
  • A life for Capoeira (Uma vida pela Capoeira) -Mestre Pastinha. by Antonio Carlos Muricy
  • Black Beetle (Besouro Preto). by Salim Rollins
  • Capoeira in Prison. by Masha Jaring dos Santos
  • Rock Steady Crew vs. Capoeira Angola. a recording from a Live Performance at the Carribean Cultural Center in New York, 1993
  • The Cat’s Leap (A Pulo do Gato). by the Capoeira Angola Center New York
  • Vadiacao/Dance of War. by Jair Moura
  • Mandinga em Manhattan. by Lazario Faria
  • Exú – an Offering. by Kostana Banovic
  • Oxossi – a Ceremony. by Kostana Banovic
  • Women in Capoeira (Mulher na Capoeira): Kalunga. by Eduardo Lima
  • Women in Capoeira (Mulher na Capoeira): Maluquinha. by Eduardo Lima
  • MOM: Move on Musicology. by Brendan Ahern

I must admit that I havent see all of them (I had to work when they were showing the first movies on Friday evening), but most. And of course there were some which were less interesting than others. Some of these movies were only 4 minutes long. Others didn´t have much information, but were really nice to see (e.g. the Leopoldinha documentary, I really enjoyed it!) and others were just great (e.g.Mandinga em Manhattan). After this event I had of course The Itch in my feet. You know what I mean the sudden urge that you HAVE to play a game right now? Happens to me once in a while and mostly when it´s just not the right place and time! But I also had the feeling that I went deeper into the meaning of Capoeira than ever before. That I now understood Capoeira more!

This is one example. We could call it “My personal deep-knowledge experience”. What came into my mind after a while was this: that should happen to everyone. The problem with us non-Brazilians is that we live in a society where Capoeira is not part of. Yes, of course there are thousands of people practising this art, there are batizados and workshops and Capoeira does force itself (or gets forced into, whatever you find more suitable) into the media (with all kind of spots, in music video clips, in advertisement and into the music). But Capoeira here is not in its “natural habitat”, it’s cultural background!

Slavery was not a problem for European society (for American society it was), Orixas are not known here at all, most people havent seen a Berimbau in their whole life, the Capoeira music does sound, for European and American ears, very strange, the definitions of aesthetics in a society which did give birth to such things like Wiener Walzer, ballet and opera do have serious problems in seeing the aesthetics of Capoeira, the cunning Capoeirista – a much propagated ideal or legend in Capoeira history – is nothing else than a mean street thug in the eyes of most people. Some of these problems do even apply to Brazilians who are ‘of better house’. Even they do have difficulties to comprehend Capoeira.

And us? What do we do to comprehend Capoeira? When there were beginners’ classes my trainer always asked afterwards if somebody has a question about anything related to Capoeira. Most of the time he got no response at all. And he complained a lot that people do seem to be willing to practise his art, but do not seem to want to understand it. And even when we want to learn more about Capoeira, we do have to believe the things our trainers and Mestres tell us (fair enough, but everybody out there knows that it’s never a good idea to have an opinion just based on one or two other people’s opinions) or start reading books and do our research in the internet. I must admit that nowadays there are a lot more possibilities to educate yourself about Capoeira. But we do not make use of one great opportunity to dive into the Capoeira world: Cultural Events.

Capoeira is culture and if we restrict ourselves in organizing only Batizados or Workshops it will be our loss. It’s not only FilmFestivals you could organize (although I will go for the 2nd Capoeira Film Festival in June!!!), it could be Berimbau building workshops, inviting a pais-do-santo, storytelling competitions, errr…. it’s just a matter of being creative.

I think it would help most of us. AND it is inspiring!

I’m interested in what kind of events YOU people were. And if you were not, what kind of events about Capoeira would you like to see. See this as a gathering point for your ideas. Who knows, maybe one of us will get the possibility to organize such an event. Then I want to have the first invitation 😉


Filed under Capoeira Today

3 responses to “Capoeira Culture in ‘the Diaspora’

  1. Funny you should mention the Capoeira Film Festival, I just found it on the ‘net today. Any idea how something like that gets organized? I would LOVE to see those films shown here in NYC and I think there’d be a good amount of interest considering how many groups there are here. Does one have to contact each film’s producer… or what?

    Did you see “Women in Capoeira”? If so, how was that?

    Mandinga em Manhattan is indeed pretty awesome. I was actually in Brazil when that aired for the first time on Brazilian TV… at some obscure time like 11 PM on a weeknight, of course…

  2. angoleiro

    yeah, Mandinga em Manhattan is nothing for kiddies, you know, they cant air that on early hours. anyway, I was not involved in the organizing stuff but had the pleasure to talk with Totti Angola about it (who did participate in the organization) and it seemed to be quite some work to organize it. I didnt think that it was a big problem to get the movies, especially if you know some of the producers (the producers of a couple of short movies were there personally). The bigger problems were to get good quality movies (like danca de guerra in good quality, that was a special problem) and to get version with subtitle. Actually Totti and some other organizers were still editing some movies while we were already watching the first movies… and one big hint: get yourself someone who is adept in all the media thingies like editing and stuff. I think that without people like that they’d have a pretty hard time to be finished in time.
    I did watch the Women in Capoeira shorts. They did not especially tell me new things about Capoeira and Women. The conflict is the same, but they did give the whole conflict one or two faces. And I think some people learned that women in Brazil, especially in former times, did suffer under many more prejudices of being a female Capoeirista than today and in Europe or North America. And it might have been the case that a lot of people just got aware of the problem at all.
    In sum I’d say the festival was GREAT and an absolute success. And it has an enormous use in introducing beginner and advanced Capoeiristas in the West to the Capoeira world out of their gyms.
    Hope to have answered to most of your questions 😉

  3. Daniel de Ouro

    Iêêê Camará!
    Your Blog looks really interesting, I just found it per coincidence… I was looking for subtitles for MANDINGA EM MANHATTAN.
    I just got the original brazilian DVD-Version and wanted to watch the documentary with some other Angoleiros from Germany (my Country) who don’t speak portuguese… Do you know where I could get English subtitles for that movie? I know they do exist, I’ve seen some exerpts on Youtube with English subtitles…
    Looking forward to hear from you, keep on bloggin’!

    rasteira, cabecada …de alemanha

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s