Tag Archives: Culture

Is your Corpo Fechado?

verger-capoeira-26454

Capoeira is not only a martial art, a dance and a game. It comes along with its cultural background, which developed in the Afrobrazilian circles of Brazil and spread all over the world. It’s like HipHop, or like Yoga. It left it’s national and cultural boundaries and spread to places where some parts of it’s culture might be less well understood than others. Some interesting thoughts about cultural differences in the practice of Capoeira are given in a post by Mandingueira on her highly recommendable blog www.mandingueira.com. Even in Brazil many connotations and aspects of this art get lost due to old mestres dying and their knowledge usually dying with them. Here in Europe or in the U.S. or in Asia only few pieces of this culture are learned. This is why once in a while I come along and try to explain some of the words which you will hear in connection to capoeira. I’m not Brazilian and my connection to Brazil is solely because I love to play Capoeira Angola. So all I can give you is my limited view on some parts of Capoeira culture. If you know better, feel free to correct.

After this short intro I will now come to the question given in the title. Is your Corpo Fechado? For all those who dont know Portuguese, Corpo Fechado means “closed body”. in Capoeira, and in related Afrobrazilian cults like Candomblé, Corpo Fechado does have an important meaning. I will try to explain both the secular and the spiritual meaning of this word.

Corpo Fechado – in the Roda

The closed body in the Roda is a basic principle of Capoeira. Everybody learns it from the very beginning without having to know that they are actually working on a ‘closed body’. The Corpo Fechado in the Roda is your defense, most basically your hands and arms protecting vulnerable parts of your body. These parts are especially your face, neck, chest and lower torso.

Already doing the Ginga does demand the player to keep up his defense every time his body is moving forward. One arm always protects the face. If not so the danger of getting a kick or slap into the face is imminent (I wont judge now how nice or fair it is to kick into the face of somebody whose face was unprotected… that’s another topic). The same does account for every single movement in Capoeira. And also both in traditional and modern variants of the Game. Some Mestres do complain that in modern variants due to a higher distance between players the necessity of a “closed body” decreases. In Capoeira Angola on the other side, a closed body is a necessity – and in every second of the Game a hole in your defense can be used by your partner.

I dont want to scare you people away. And I also dont want to show you just the one side of the coin. Modern Capoeira and Capoeira Angola do allow you to show apparent “entrances” into your body. In the ideal case sometimes you might seem absolutely helpless with you body wide open. And still be able to close the body when it’s needed. That is to lure your partner into a situation where he thinks he has you, and showing him that that is not so. One of my favoritue Capoeira Angola pictures is the one posted below where the player in white seems absolutely helpless. Still, his partner does not fall into that trap keeping up his defense, knowing that a good player can defend himself in whatever position he is.

corpo fechado

But dont forget one essential thing about capoeira. That it is not about concentrating on one thing. Corpo Fechado is a set term in Capoeira culture, but it is not the only thing. Theoretically you could have a perfect defense, but still be absolutely horrible in playing Capoeira. Thus, Corpo Fechado is one part of Capoeira, a part everybody should know of, but not the above-all most important part of it.

Corpo Fechado – in Life

Corpo Fechado does also have a very religious connotation. In Afrobrazilian practises achieving Corpo Fechado is possible through specific rituals and by wearing amulets. Having a Corpo Fechado means being invulnerable against all kinds of physical attacks. If it’s knives or bullets. The most favourite person to have had a Corpo Fechado was the Capoeira legend Besouro Manganga. Manoel Henrique Pereira (1897-1924) was a legendary Capoeirista and criminal in Santo Amaro, Bahia. He was known and loved by the folks for his fights with the police. In times of danger he would transform into a beetle and vanish from the place. He was also known to be invulnerable – or only vulnerable by an enchanted wooden dagger (made of the Tucum-tree), which was the reason for his death in 1927.

But the Corpo Fechado does exist outside of Capoeira aswell. As I said, it is part of Afrobrazilian culture. The rituals and ideals behind this go back into Kongolese religious practices, where there was the belief in Kanga Nitu. Kanga Nitu was “binding your body” thorugh rituals protecting it from evil spirits. Other rituals did include the use fetishes and amuletts – socalled Nkisis – against arrows from enemies in times of war, or for a successful hunt (among many other uses). The ideas of Kanga Nitu and corresponding rituals came along with the slaves and still have an influence on Afrobrazilian culture.

One part which is to be mentioned together with it are the patuás, the amuletts which protect the faithful from all kinds of physical harm. These amuletts did contain a diversity of herbs alongside with prayers written into them. But it obviously doesnt seem to be enough to just wear a Patuá around your neck, you also have to know your prayers and rituals, and what is forbidden and what not. Basically, you have to believe and know the religion before you start “protecting” yourself with a Patuá. As the proverb says: “Quem nao pode com mandinga, nao carrega patúa.” Roughly translated: Who doesn’t know Mandinga, should not use a Patúa. Today a lot of people do carry a Patúa without actually believing in it’s use. It has become a part of Capoeira fashion. I personally do not believe in the effect of a Patúa, but I still would strongly recommend any person who carries a Patúa to learn about its implications. Even if he/she does only see it as a fashionable accessoire, it is still of use to know what you are walking around with.

There are also certain ways to “open” the body of a person, even when that person does have a “Corpo Fechado”, this does include the use of enchanted weapons (as it was in the case of Besouro Mangangá). But also the person himself can cause his “protection” to fail. One known way is to have sex. Some traditional Mestres dont recommend practising Capoeira after having had sex the night before.

So, the next time a mestre screams at you to “fechar o corpo” he means that you should keep up your defense. He usually does not mean you to be abstinent before you come to his class or to wear a Patúa, because as Capoeira does spread around the world, there will be more and more practitioners who do not believe in Candomblé or into any Afrobrazilian manifestation of those ancient Bantu traditions. Still, even if you dont believe in them, it’s useful to know about it – and even if it is only to comprehend more what we are doing, playing Capoeira.

Picture sources:

http://www.ele-mental.org/capoeira/TABCAT/aboutcapoeira.html

http://albenisio.spaces.live.com/blog/

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Filed under Philosophy, The Game

Respect Your Berimbau!

The first time I heard and saw the Berimbau, I was amazed. Some other people were not used to its sound and did not understand it. And while learning more about Capoeira, a student does understand that having a Berimbau and learning how to play it and that listening to the sounds and the orders of the Berimbau in the Roda is of uttermost importance in Capoeira. I always accepted this as a fact and did not waste energy to think about it, until the first person asked: “why?”

When we thoroughly study the sources, we see that Capoeira was not always associated with the Berimbau. When Rugendas was describing Capoeira in 1825, there were drums. When Debrét was drawing the black street vendor with the Berimbau, there was no Capoeira. In the few first-hand sources we have about Capoeira of the 19th century, there is just no Berimbau. And still, today all our Mestres and teachers do emphasize the importance of the Berimbau. The Berimbau started to become a symbol of Capoeira. When I see somebody walking around with a Berimbau here in Europe, I just assume he is a Capoeirista. So, what happened in the last 100 years? Why is the Berimbau so important to Capoeira, while it was just not associated with it just 110 years ago?

Let’s try to track it back.

Out of Africa – the Berimbau

The Berimbau is an African-derived instrument. Recent and past indigenous tribes of Brazil did not have musical bows, the Europeans neither. But in Africa around the 15th century till today there was a huge diversity of different musical bows, of which I have given an overview in another post of mine. The ones who played these bows and built them in Africa were shipped over to Brazil and there they started making Berimbaus and playing them. We find the first historical documentation of the Berimbau in the early 19th century. Especially travellers from Europe were fascinated or curious about the musical bow which was described as being used by street vendors and beggars. And it was especially an instrument used by Blacks, not by the mestizoes, not the poor whites, it was the African Brazilian people who used the Berimbau.

The first times the Berimbau was mentioned together with Capoeira, was in the early 1880’s. One document of this time (about 1891) is a description by Joao Silva da Campos, whose description was published posthumously in 1941:

The excited dark crowd performed Batuques. Samba. Capoeira circles. One heard pandeiros, cavaquinhos, violas, harmonicas, berimbau and cadential hand clapping. It was  pandemonium (Campos 1941:131).

This description, which does not seem to be the description of an insider, does definitely show us that Capoeira and the Berimbau were already in the same happenings, but maybe not specifically linked to each other. It was still mainly poor African Brazilians who practised Capoeira, and who played the Berimbau. But in one expect there is an important difference between Capoeira and the Berimbau. While Capoeira was practised in different places, the Berimbau seems to have survived in only few places. Especially in Salvador. In Rio Capoeira was practised without the Berimbau (and without the Ginga and so on), but was associated with war songs used by the Guiamos and the Nagoas. In Recife Capoeira was associated with the city’s principal music bands, but they also had no Berimbau.

Symbiosis

In the 1930’s the Berimbau was nearly extinct in Brazil. It was only played in Salvador, and here most of its players were Capoeiristas or associated to them. And then, when Capoeira did suddenly increase in popularity thanks to Mestre Bimba and the legalization of Capoeira Academies by Getulio Vargas, the Berimbau did start to be used more and more. And today, only 70 years later, the Berimbau is a symbol of Brazil, but more of Afrobrazilian culture, and, of all, of Capoeira. It is still most intimately connected to Capoeira, but has now its existence in performance and entertainment outside of it as well. Without Capoeira, the Berimbau would never had experienced such an increase in popularity in the world. And maybe, though this is speculation, it would not have survived.

But there is also the other side of the coin. Would Capoeira have survived or gained so much popularity without the Berimbau? Mind, that the Capoeiras of Rio de Janeiro and Recife, the ones without the Berimbau and stripped from many parts of Afrobrazilian culture, did not survive. Alright, this is all speculation, because, in fact, Capoeira and the Berimbau did survive. My opinion is still, that without each other, both would have been much weaker nowadays than before. They are in a symbiosis: a situation, where two different entities are closely associated gaining mutual benefit from this. Already this is a reason to respect the Berimbau and keep it in your Rodas and in your trainings.

Control

There is more to the Berimbau. The Berimbau is the Master of the Roda. Of course, yes, there are other Mestres, but in every Roda, in modern Capoeira Rodas and in traditional ones, the Berimbau does control speed and style of the game. That’s why there are different rythms, different toques of the Berimbau. That is why the Berimbau is the first instrument to play in a Capoeira Roda. That’s why every instrument can miss in a Roda, but not the Berimbau. And that’s why Capoeiristas can walk through any street and will react on the sound of the Berimbau, usually making him attent and making him search for the Roda. That is why there are all rituals around the Berimbau, why it’s at the Pé do Berimbau where we enter the Roda.

Mestre Bimba did modernize Capoeira, but he did leave the Berimbau, because it is the controlling instance in a Capoeira Roda. It is the Berimbau and the bateria of Capoeira, which did keep Bahian Capoeira under control, so that it could be playful in the first, beautiful in the second and deadly in the third game. That’s the big difference of Bahian Capoeira to Capoeira Carioca or Capoeira of Recife. That’s why it did survive.

Everybody has to listen to the Berimbau, if he does not, he doesn’t have any idea of Capoeira.

And us?

I have to admit it. My Berimbau skills are far less than my playing skills. I might play some toques and be able to keep up a Roda, but whoever calls my Berimbau play beautiful has never heard a good Capoeirista play the Berimbau. What I am gonna do is learn to play the Berimbau. Training it as regularly as your Capoeira skills is something most people do not do – and when your teacher doesn’t give music lessons (or only rarely) than your music will be horrible. Until you start learning it yourself. We should understand that the Berimbau is as important as the Ginga in Capoeira. When you are a longterm Capoeirista and you have no Berimbau, the question is: why? Get yourself a Berimbau, start playing it till there is no feeling in your pinky and then: play more!

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Filed under African Roots, Philosophy

Today is Carybé Day

É argentino, é brasileiro, é quichua,

é asteca, é inca, é carioca por bossa

mas baiano por fé.

É amigo do mundo inteiro

menos de quem náo dá pé.

Canta cantigas de Cuzco

da Havana e do Tremenbé.

É um sambista milongueiro

Bate um violáo de terreiro.

E é santo de cadomblé.

–Vincius de Moraes

 

On the 1nd of October 1997 a guy named Hector Julio Paride Bernabó died while attending a Candomblé ceremony in the city of Salvador, Bahia. With his dead Salvador lost one of its big recent artists. Capoeiristas, Brazilians and artists around the world know him more under his name Carybé.

First of all, I have to admit, I am illiterate in terms of art. You cant possibly walk through a museum faster than I do. It’s not a lack of interest, I am usually not even aware of arts – as long as it is not Capoeira-related. So you can guess now why this guy fills a whole post in this blog? Well, because this guy had a unique ability to capture the beauty of Salvador, of Afrobrazilian culture and, of all, of Capoeira (Angola) in his pictures. I had one of his pictures on my shirts before I knew who this guy was. And as such, and as it is now 11 years ago that he died, I thought it would be great to acknowledge his life and art on this blog!

The person

 

At the 7th of February, 1911 in the city of Lanús a boy named Hector Julio Páride Bernabó was born. Lanús is a city in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentine. In Rio de Janeiro he worked as an errand boy and earned his name Carybé, which is a type of a piranha. When he was 14 he started engaging in artwork in his elder brother’s atelier in Rio and 2 years later he started studying in the Escola National de Belas Artes. After his studies Carybé did work as graphic artist for different journals and eventually visited Salvador for the first time. This was in the year of 1938. Only after many other travels and jobs he had, visiting all over South America, he was invited to stay in Bahia in the year 1950. And there he stayed till his death in the year of 1997. Here he produced his greatest artworks, like As Três Mulheres da Xângo and worked together with great contemporary artists like Pierre Verger or Jorge Amado. But Carybé was not only a famous artist, but he was also an Oba de Xângo, a Candomblé priest till his very end. At the 1st of October 1997 he died during a ceremony.

His art

 

Carybé was priest, painter, graphics artist and sculptor. His most known artswork does picture Afrobrazilian culture as he has seen it in his 47 years of Salvador, Bahia – and thus, is one of the most valuable sources of information on life in late 20 centuries Bahia. Of special mentioning are his pictures about Candomblé and of Orixás, which does leave us insight into a culture most non-Candomblistas won’t see much (especially us Gringos who are not even living in Bahia, let alone in Brazil!). Beautiful examples are his sculptures of Orixás, like the one of Oxun you see below.

 Capoeira

Carybé did also visit Rodas de Capoeira Angola, like Mestre Waldemar’s Roda in the Liberdade neighbourhood. Here he was in the 60’s and made his drawings, which are nowadays known in the whole Capoeira Community. I have seen a lot of them without noticing that it was actually Carybé. But next time one of you sees one of these pictures, or one which does look alike, maybe you will remember one of the few artists who was able to capture Capoeira’s beauty with only a few lines on paper. And now I will leave you alone with a couple of Carybé’s Capoeira pictures. Sit back and enjoy!

 

So, that’s it. No, it’s for sure not all the artwork you can find of Carybé. On the site of Capoeira-Info.org you can also read and see one of his booklets “A jogo da capoeira” with many beautiful drawings of Capoeira. Carybé was extremely active and I leave it to you people to look further and jump into this tiny, but strong, bits of Afrobrazilian culture Carybé is presenting us with his artwork.

 

In memoriam:

Carybé, 1911-1997

 

Sources:

Wikipedia

http://www.pinturabrasileira.com/artistas_bio.asp?cod=81&in=1 (Portuguese)

 http://www.geocities.com/Athens/6415/carybe_opener2.html

http://capoeira-infos.org

Pictures:

www.artenet.com.br

www.macacocapoeira.free.fr

www.uniflorgta.edu.br

www.vitorbraga.com.br

www.nzinga.org.br

http://musibrasil.net

www.gruposenzala.com

www.pitoresco.com.br

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Filed under Capoeira Today

Bring Capoeira Back to the Streets!

Street Capoeira

This topic is circulating through my mind since a couple of weeks. Maybe it is due to me leaving my first Capoeira group more than a year ago, which lead to me visiting groups and training with different groups – also regional, which is not really my line of Game. Anyway, during those times I started to see Groups and Academies differently. It is not that I do have a problem with all the typical group issues which can come up when you are in one (see Mandingueiras page for this, she has some pretty good posts in there!). I just thought about one question, and that is the question I am gonna contemplate upon in this post:

Does Capoeira really have to be stuck in Academies?

I know it is a provoking thought, questioning about 80 years of Capoeira History and a lot of teachers would decapitate me with a clean martello for this, but Capoeira did survive because people did have the flexibility of thinking in another way. So that’s what I am doing right now: Thinking the other way.

Of course “Bring Capoeira Back to the Streets” is a very placative exclamation and more an eyecatcher for you people than meant that way. No, I think without academies Capoeira would still delve in the marginality in which Mestre Bimba did find it 80 years ago and did lift it up into publicity. Without academies only some special ethnologists or Brazil-fanatics would even know what Capoeira is, nobody would play it and I would still not be able to do a handstand (and would have not chosen any sport at all for my life!). So academies do have a pretty big influence on what Capoeira IS today. Actually, Capoeira is almost only to be found in academies (or at least groups). In Europe and North America much more than in Brazil. I will later come back to the advantages of academies for Capoeira (I think most of you do intuitively know it anyway…). But much more interesting is: Why do I come up with the Streets at all? What is what Streets can give Capoeira?

I’ll name three advantages of Capoeira on the Streets and then name some disadvantages and why the academies are exactly at the right spot for this.

Pro: Capoeira on the Streets

Capoeira on the Streets

a) The first thing one have to think about is that Capoeira does actually come from the streets – or at least has spent a lot of time on the streets, in suburbian Brazil, on the docks of Bahia, Rio, Recife. Of course, I as an Angoleiro do say that Capoeira comes from African slaves, but some major changes were coming exactly from the time when Capoeira was played on the streets. It grew up in marginality, being chased down by the police and being frowned upon by “general” society. Then, some brilliant mind called Mestre Bimba did succeed in pushing through the academies and although society did not really accept Capoeira, yet academies were ok. It was some people doing that stuff between walls, out of the sight of the public (and if, then it was some kind of folklore demonstration…at least that was what people might have thought). It was a Capoeira being under control. If there was a problem with Capoeiristas you did not have to hunt down a solitude Capoeirista, but just go to his school – and the problem was solved. This everything was good for Capoeiras survival, and once it survived and was tolerated, it could start spreading around. Yeah, but on the other side it is now stuck in this academies. Even in Brazil you have so many academies and groups that usually there is always a Capoeira school some kind of Capoeirista belongs to. Does it have to be like that? Is not Capoeira, learned and practised on the street, some kind of a more authentic way of Capoeira? Less ‘imprisoned’?

b) And this leads to my second point in arguing for Capoeira on the streets. With Mestre Bimba’s academy, and the thousands of spawning academies which basically do form the Capoeira Regional and Contemporeana scene of today, a whole other way of teaching entered the Capoeira world. There were groups before, and the one or other teacher might have taught Capoeira in a more structured way. But the real structured way of teaching came to Capoeira in the wave of the academies. What is wrong with this? Well, structured and standadized ways of teaching do usually not concentrate on a single student’s needs, problems or strengths, but somehow takes “the average student” which is a non-existing prototype. After a while in the standardized training method, each individual student does come closer and closer to “the average student” leading to a whole bunch of students, which play alike! And that’s what is the problem of academies. You can actually see where a Capoeirista comes from, when you know a specific group’s style. That is true for every size of group, but when you have groups with thousands of students, then this becomes a problem. Capoeira is born and lives from its diversity. Thus, uniformity does kill it. And that is something which can’t happen that easily on the streets. When people learn by playing other people, they might take over techniques of one specific capoeirista, but there will be the influence of a lot of other players – leading to more diversity.

c) The last point I have is actually the most important, to me. With Capoeira in Academies you have one problem. They are not out there. And if they are, then Capoeiristas are part of a show, with sometimes defined people (who plays the berimbau? who does the acrobatics? who’s playing whom? and so on…). That is not the same as we are playing in our Rodas amongst Capoeiristas, right? This way Capoeira will have it hard to integrate into any society other than the Brazilian society. We are here, outside of Brazil, playing Capoeira since 30 years, and still I have to explain people what Capoeira is. It gets better, but most people actually have no idea about Capoeira, until they have trained it… for years. But if Capoeira is part of street culture, people will be able to recognize the sound of the Berimbau, be able to link Capoeira to Brazil and will get interested easier. It will stop being a rare phenomenon and finally find its place in the middle of society.

So, now enough advantages. There are also major drawbacks of Street-Capoeira.

Contra: Capoeira on the Streets/Pro: Academies

Capoeira Academy

a) My first pro-point was that Capoeira was something that was belonging to the streets before Mestre Bimba came along and did make some serious changes. It is, of course, a romanticized view to say that everything was better. Street Capoeira was having an existence in marginality. And this was not only because it was a black sport. It was also a violent game. This inherent violence made it troublesome, threatening and suspicious for ‘general society’. And these were good reasons to chase Capoeiristas. At least for the ‘society’. (That a lot of Capoeiristas did the things they do out of poor desperation, or because there was no other way, that is something people do forget easily, but that is another topic.) Now let us go 10 years into the future and think of a Capoeira street scene somewhere in a major Norht American and European city. And suddenly violence does occur. Two groups/gangs of Capoeiristas do make use of knives in the Roda, or of shotguns… Well, welcome back to the situation of Rio in 19th century. I am exaggerating a bit, but where I am coming down to is this: Without academies there is no control of Capoeira at all. That is sometimes good for Capoeiras freedom, but we all know that Capoeira was also used for other purposes. And when Capoeiristas do become a source of trouble in other than Brazilian societies the reputation of Capoeiristas will drop into a grey area we all do not want to belong to. And it just needs a couple of stupid people for this! How does the oriental saying go? “When one idiot does throw a stone into font, ten wise men will not be able to get it out.

b) Another disadvantage of a street capoeirista is quite obvious and was obvious to a lot of old Mestres when they first saw regionalistas (the phenomenon is still existent today, though I think in a lesser degree than in the past). Street Capoeira does not teach you how to do things efficiently or beautifully or anything else. The degree of technique taught in a Capoeira Academy is – because of a streamlined and structural way of learning – higher than on the streets. Because of this we have more highly developed Capoeiristas than ever before. There is even still a difference between Regionalistas and Angoleiros. Angoleiros do usually receive a less structured lesson than Regionalistas. This does lead to the fact that Regionalistas learn playing and do achieve high performance faster than Angoleiros. Learning Capoeira Angola does need more time – with the advantage of pretty individualized styles. But even Angoleiros today do have much more structurized training than people had before.

c) The last point I have against a street capoeira scene is actually a direct response to my last pro argument. Capoeiras integration into society and a street Capoeira scene in Europe and North America (and Asia, Africa or Australia) would change Capoeira itself. It would generate some kind of local Capoeira, which is in danger of losing its roots. As an Angoleiro I am very considered that nobody forgets what Capoeira was, what the traditions are and that the Game does not lose its characeristics. Without an Academy the danger of losing Capoeiras identity is very high. When you think about it, MEstre Pastinha’s academy did evolve especially because there was a need of saving Capoeira Angola was felt. Maybe only this and the efforts of people organized in academies did save Capoeira Angola. And that is something I should not forget myself – e.g.when I am contemplating about Capoeira on the Streets yes or no. Capoeira might loose its cultural roots.

So where do we land at the very end. Should Capoeira go back to the streets? Yes and no – as it is with everything in the world, right? I think the invention of academies did save Capoeira and make it so big and this will continue. Without the academies the Capoeira world will shrink, diffuse or drift into a position where it is folklore or a violent game. Both nothing we really would like to have. And what can we do about this. Well, first of all: Belong and do not lose contact to one or other academy. They are the basis of Capoeira today and there are pretty good reasons to leave it like that. And on the other side – if your teacher does allow it – play on the streets. Do play with other people, meet up and do something. Let’s live Capoeira!

Axé!

 Pictures taken from: www.salvador-portal.com , www.wikipedia.org and www.achebrasil.com

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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 😉

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