The Root of Capoeira

While it is quite popular to associate Capoeira with Brazil, as part of the Afro-Brazilian culture, it is self evident that its roots lie in Africa. To be specific, those roots come right out of Angola. One of the main ideas out and about capoeira is that it start way back in the day as a way to win a bride. Two men would bust out their best capoeira moves and whoever won not only got the woman, he also didn't have to cough up any dowry. "What I steal!!!" Eventually, this ritualistic tradition turned a little more serious when foot-fighting was added as a means of defense against attacks (if only it had worked a little better against slave masters).

From Denmark to Istanbul to West Side Manhattan, Capoeira Angola is yet another great export that has stood the test of a whole lot of time. This is something I've always found so interesting and would love to learn! Click here to see a really cool video about Angolan style Capoeira.


ms. shoo {shebreathes.com} said...

As an "Afro-Brasileira" there just isn't a disconnection between the style of Capoeira in Brasil and Angola. Most of my African ancestors hailed from Angola so again I don't see the distinction. I also don't think it's "popular" to associate it with Brasil, without reason. Despite what some think, Brasil is far more connected to the continent that is "Africa" than many know. Most of our culture in the Nordeste is knee deep in West African cultures. We didn't just wake-up one day and decide that we'd borrow. This is part of our lineage. Brasil and Angola is like parent to child in my world, and it's very much how I was raised.

Norberto - Start Playing Capoeira said...

That's an interesting theory for the beginning of capoeira. However there are a bunch of them out there (evolved from combination of various tribe dances, developed in quilmbos as defense, etc.) From what I've seen, it's hard to determine if there was any specific reason. All of this just makes the art deeper and more mysterious.

Uzo said...

I thought the title of the blog "The Root of Capoeira" indicates the lineage between Afro Brazilian and African culture and not that African culture in Brazil or other parts of Latin America is "borrowed". However to say that years later and continents apart that there is no distinction would be to argue that this art form has not evolved. I would find it natural for Capoeira to grow and yet remain connected much like a child become his or her own person but remains connected to home.

My most memorable experience in Brazil was discovering the Bahian women in the market and being transported back home to West Africa with every bite of okra, shrimp and palm oil. It was a lesson for me to find that touch of Africa so many thousands of miles away.

African influence in Latin American is still new to many of us although I know its existed since the first slaves came to the shores of Latin America but posts like this one and over at Fly Brother's blog are great lessons many of us.

Brandie said...

Wow - Thanks for all the great comments! Each of you have raised so many interesting points.

Unfortunately, I think there are far fewer people who know about the many connections that exist between Brazil and various African cultures (I myself am only slowly learning about these multiple connections). Over the years that I have heard or read any references to capoeira (whether on tv, newspapers, online or etc.), it has always only been connected with Brazil with little to no reference of any connection to Africa. I am definitely excited to explore more of the history and modern-day linkages between Brazil and Africa in general and Angola specifically.

What I found interesting in my reading up on this topic is that the distinction of a form called "Capoeira Angola" actually seems to have originated in Bahia by Mestre Pastinha. I have no idea why this mestre decided to make such a distinction, but I do find the making of one interesting. Maybe he felt capoeira had strayed too far from it's "roots?" I'm not sure...

And Norberto, I do agree that this is an interesting version on the history of Capoeira. :) You are right that there do seem to be many theories about the origins of Capoeira. I, for one, am really glad that there are so many people interested and digging into the history of this art as it does indeed make it all the more intriguing.

ms. shoo {shebreathes.com} said...

@ Uzo,

I didn't say the "art form" hasn't evolved. I explained why I didn't see any distinction as a Brasilian. Capoeira, isn't something I woke-up too, it's embedded in me, it's a part of my everyday culture, and far deeper {to me} than the scant touches in the media or what it's evolved into around the world. In fact I directed my brother Robertinho to this topic, because he teaches Capoeira in Bahia, between being an architect. He's by far the better authority on it than me. But I can almost guarantee that he too doesn't see a distinction either. Just how we were raised, and often hard to explain.

My parents never allowed us to see a distinction. When my father first passed down Capoeira to us, I can remember with great detail the words he used before demonstrating some of it, "this is who you are, this is yours". So, yeah it's deeper than a just a connection and no I don't see a distinction, artistic evolution aside.

Uzo said...

Dear ms. shoo,
I appreciate our conversation and leave it by saying that your parents must be amazing people and that their lessons obviously resonant in you.

I am far away from where I call home. I would hope that if I have children that they too will see no distinction.

Have a great weekend.