Cultural Connections: Capoeira Angola & Candomblé

This excerpt comes from an article written by Mestre Poloca entitled, “Capoeira and Candomblé” that was published in the fourth edition of the magazine Toques D’Angola (a magazine created by Grupo N’Zinga). The article examines some of the connections between the practices of Capoeira Angola and the Afro-Brazilian religion of candomblé, using as an example the death of the famous capoeirista, Besouro Preto. It also reflects on their parallel histories of persecution by the Brazilian government. Here is a taste:
... There is much syncretism in capoeira, as it is common to hear references to the orixás, nkisis, caboclos, and Catholic saints in its musical repertory…

… The three berimbaus of capoeira are saluted and revered by the mestres, contramestres, and students exactly as the three atabaques of candomblé are revered by the Taata Dya Nkisi, Makotas, Mwaana Nkisi, and other faithful. In their own way, each has the liturgic function that expresses the messages that extrapolate the conscious dimension of existence, creating a link between the sacred and secular. On the part of the songs destined to capoeira corridos, there are the songs of opening, developing, and closing the ritual, which correspond in candomblé to the songs for the santo to “descer” [come down] and to “subir” [go up]. The pé do berimbau is a space where the gesture is sacred. It is in the roda that the sacred dimension expresses itself in the most clear way in the corporal repertory of the capoeirista. In Capoeira Angola, dancing, playing, joking, and fighting translate into possibilities to establish communication on a more subjective and abstract level. This sacred dimension requires a long process of teaching-learning. In the African culture, the body and the spirit are not viewed as different or separated entities. In candomblé, for example, the spiritual entity needs a “body” (material) to express itself. In Capoeira Angola, it is the body that needs the ngunzo to attain its highest form of expression.

Before initiating a game, capoeiristas, through their gestures, invoke sacred protection (the sign of the cross, the five points of Saloman, and others). The roda is the ritual space and the body is the sanctuary of the sacred. Within this is the dynamic of communication, of the redistribution of ngunzo, of the existence and vigor of the cosmic rules contained with capoeira. The secret should not be the privilege of the mestre alone, but students must deserve it…

… In closing, just as in candomblé, in capoeira, the learning process never ends. According to Makota Valdina Pinto, “one can only truly be great when one knows how to be small.”

Very interesting! The article also includes a glossary of religious terms used in candomblé that are also used in many capoeira songs.

The whole magazine is excellent, and offers great insight into various aspects of Capoeira Angola. You can find it in the library of Grupo N’Zinga.


Para Ser Bom Capoeira Não Precisa Ser Doutô

The honorary doctorate degree that Mestre João Pequeno de Pastinha received last week from the Federal University of Bahia was a wonderful act of recognition by the university. The city government even sponsored a few billboards around the city of Salvador announcing the doctorate.

However, the fact of the matter is that through his own hard work and dedication, oftentimes in the face of huge obstacles, Mestre João Pequeno de Pastinha has been an internationally-recognized cultural icon for decades. His academy has attracted and educated thousands of people from all over the world, and he has passed down capoeira as a cultural manifestation integral to the history and culture of Brazil.

Capoeira has always had a tenuous relationship with the law, from its prohibition in the nineteenth century to attemps by the government to control who can teach capoeira. Mestre Camaleao has a nice ladainha, highlighting capoeira's (and capoeiristas themselves) ability to evade these attempts at control by the government.
Andam dizendo por aí (2x)
Que uma lei já se formou
Para regulamentar capoeira
Essa e coisa de doutô
Quem elaborou essa lei (2x)
Capoeira não jogou
Capoeira nasceu no gueto
Que o mundo já ganhou
A capoiera está livre
Desse sistema opressor
Para ser bom capoeira (2x)
Não precisa ser doutô
Todo mestre e doutôado
Dessa arte meu senhor!
What a great song! Beautifully written with a powerful message. Mestre Camaleão sings this song on his album, "Vai na paz de Deus". The whole album has a fantastic energy. Its great for training.


Mestre João Pequeno Honored with Doctoral Degree

Here are some pictures from the ceremony honoring Mestre João Pequeno with an honorary doctoral degree from the Federal University of Bahia last Wednesday. The event was very nice. Mestre João Pequeno entered the room to great applause and the flashes of many, many cameras.

The ceremony opened with a presentation of a berimbau orchestra, followed by speeches, various theatrical presentations, a children’s roda, and the presentation of the degree. A highlight was the poetic telling of Mestre João Pequeno's life story by some of his women students. Besides the UFBa administrators, professors, and many capoeiristas, Mestres Moraes, Poloca, Barba Branca, and Lua Rasta were in attendance. It was a great night.

Once again, congratulations Mestre João Pequeno on this well-deserved honor.


São Paulo: Encounter Angoleiro Sim Sinho

Encontro Angoleiro Sim Sinhô
Mestre Plinio

When: May 22 – 25
Where: Parque da Água Branca- São Paulo, Brazil
Invited Mestres: Mestre Môa do Katendê, Mestre Virgílio de Ilhéus, Mestre Lua de Bobó, Mestre Jogo de Dentro, Researcher Fred Abreu
Contact: (11) 3673- 0688 or, send an email to: angoleiros (at) angoleirossimsinho (dot) com (dot) br

Get all the details about the conference, including the schedule and registration details, at the group’s website (in Portuguese).


Beginners' Class Session in Washington, DC

If you are in the DC area and you have always wanted to learn about Capoeira Angola, or know someone who does, this is a great opportunity.
What: Special Beginner’s Session (10 classes over 5 weeks)
When: May 6th thru June 5th, 2008 (Tuesdays & Thursdays from 7 to 9 pm)
Where: 733 Euclid St. NW, WDC (Between Georgia Avenue and Sherman Avenue)
Cost: $100 for 10 classes (includes a t-shirt)

Here’s your chance to experience a unique martial art in a comfortable and fun environment. Learn the basic movements of Capoeira Angola. Learn to sing traditional Capoeira Angola songs in Portuguese. Learn to play the berimbau, pandeiro, atabaque, and other instruments.

What is Capoeira Angola?
Capoeira Angola is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines acrobatics, fighting, music, history and philosophy. Enslaved Africans brought the movements of Capoeira Angola to Brazil, disguising the martial elements of Capoeira Angola by adding music and singing. After the abolition of slavery, Capoeira Angola continued to develop as an instrument of freedom and resistance. Today, Capoeira Angola groups flourish across Brazil and around the world.

Voted as “Best” in Washington City Paper’s 2008 Best of DC
“Best Place to Whup Ass Brazilian-Style” in 2008 City Paper

(ok, that is really funny..)

If you have any questions, please email the group at ficadc (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Hope you can make it.

Capoeira Angola Center: Full Schedule of Events

It's not too late to join the event happening right now at the Capoeira Angola Center of Mestre Joao Grande in New York City. There are all sorts of events, including yoga workshops, movie screenings, maculele and dance classes, and lots of capoeira.

Click here to view the full schedule of events (scroll down to schedule link).

Thanks to Jamel from the Capoeira Angola Center for the link.


Capoiera in Rio in the 19th Century

… The key year for capoiera in Rio is 1870. For various reasons, the War of Paraguay (1865 – 1870) was a turning point in its history. Rounded up by the hundreds and sent to the battlefield, they [capoeiristas] became famous for their feats of bravery in hand-to-hand combat, and they gained the respect of government officials. They returned as heroes. They re-took control of the maltas [gangs] that they had abandoned when they “volunteered” to fight in the south.

It was not simply a return. The conservative elite that dominated the political life of the nation, in one way or another, was enthused by the martial fervor of those at the battle front. It was also greatly impressed with the violence of the street fights upon the return of the veterans. From this moment forward, for reasons that remain unclear to this day, the capoeiras entered definitively into the political agenda of the elite monarchy of the Imperial Court of Rio de Janeiro.

The malta that became a kind of legend in the political-electoral life of Rio at this time was Flor da Gente. It dominated the community of Glória, a noble part of the city, full of mansions and landed estates of the elite of Rio. In 1872, Flor da Gente entered with fury into the violence that characterized the electoral disputes of the empire.

… During the eight years that the “political capoeiras”- as the opposition press called them- dominated the corridors of the power of the city. With the support of powerful patrons, they infiltrated the police force…

The party ended in 1878. The conservatives fell, bringing with them Flor da Gente. The repression that fell on their heads was severe, but it was not enough to eliminate them. For the next ten years, they continued to control the political violence in the city, until they were forced out once and for all by the moralistic and republican energy of Sampaio Ferraz in 1890.
This excerpt about the history of capoeira in the city of Rio de Janeiro at the close of the nineteenth century comes from an article published in the Brazilian magazine Nossa História in March of 2004. The article, entitled “A era de ouro da capoeira” (“The Golden Age of Capoeira”) and written by Carlos Eugênio Libano, includes an excerpt from a small publication of the time called “Os capoeiras” that depicts a street fight among capoeirstas. It also reflects upon the origins of capoeira, and talks about the rivalry between the great malts of Rio de Janeiro, the Nagoas and the Guayamus. The article is quite comprehensive and very well-written (in Portugese). It’s worth a read.

If you want to read the rest of the article, it is available in the library of FICA-Bahia.


Congratulations Mestre / Dr. João Pequeno

This Wednesday (April 23), Mestre João Pequeno will be honored with the title of “Honorary Doctor” from Universidade Federal da Bahia (Federal University of Bahia). Here are the details:

When: April 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm
Where: Salão Nobre - Reitoria da UFBA, Rua Augusto Viana, s/n – Canela

Following the event, there will be a celebration and roda at the Nzinga space in Rio Vermelho.

It is with great satisfaction that I let you know that finally, Mestre JOÃO PEQUENO DE PASTINHA, ninety years old, the oldest active mestre of capoeira, and recognized as the most important reference of capoeira in the world, will be awarded the title of "Doutor Honoris Causa" from the Federal University of Bahia. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 23 at 5:30 in the Salão Nobre of the Reitoria of UFBA.

It is of great importance that the university begin to recognize the value of popular culture that has a fundamental role in the humanization of society. Knowledge – academic and popular – complement each other and do not need to be set in a hierarchy. Mestre João Pequeno is a rare jewel in the vast house of our rich popular culture and is a symbol of simplicity, knowledge, generosity, and partnership.

There is nothing more just than the university’s recognition of João, as he is recognized by the people, in the streets, in the markets, in the plazas, in the terreiros, in capoiera rodas, and in the hearts of those who have had the privilege and pleasure to know this great mestre of popular culture in Brazil.

Save mestre (and now doctor) João Pequeno de Pastinha!!!

Pedro Abib – Student of João Pequeno and professor at FACED/UFBA


News: Annual FICA Conference in Chicago

FICA-Chicago is organizing this year's big FICA-Conference. Considering the conferences they have put on in the past, this is going to be a great event that you do not want to miss.

Here are the latest details from the group:


this is the most updated information we have about our upcoming conference in september. please spread the word widely. your efforts in inviting people to attend is greatly appreciated and will ensure a great event. please let us know if there are any questions or concerns asap so we can address them.

t. beto and fica chicago

FICA XIV International Capoeira Angola Conference
September 4th-7th, 2008

Camp Lawrence, Valparasio, Indiana

Mestres Attending
Mestre Valmir, Mestre Jurandir, Mestre Cobra Mansa, and others

Details To Come...

Before/On August 1st
FICA members: $130
Non-FICA members: $140

August 1st and after
FICA members: $150
Non-FICA members: $160

Single Day Only
FICA members: $80
Non-FICA members: $90

Registration & Payment
Please send an email to info (at) quilombocenter (dot) org, with the following information: name, address, email, Capoeira group affiliation, # of years training Capoeira Angola, nights for which you will need accommodation, whether you will need transportation between Chicago and the event, and payment method (paypal, check, cash).

Registration and payment must be received prior to or on August 1st to receive the early registration discount. Payment can be made in advance by Paypal (www.paypal.com), check, or money order. Do not send cash by mail! Checks and money orders can be made out to ICAF Chicago and sent to our address (see bottom of post). *Paypal requires an account to use. Paypal payments should be made to our email address, info (at) quilombocenter (dot) org.

Registration fee covers conference fee, housing (Thursday night through Sunday afternoon), food (Friday breakfast through Sunday lunch), and transportation to/from Chicago and Camp Lawrence.

Getting There
FICA Chicago can provide transportation to and from Chicago. You must indicate in your registration email if you will need this transportation..

FROM INTERSTATE 80/90 (THE INDIANA TOLL ROAD): In either direction, exit the Chesterton/Valparaiso exit and turn right on U.S. Hwy. 49 south. Approximately one mile, exit the Westville exit of US Hwy. 6, turn left at stoplight. At the next light, (Calumet Ave) turn right. The road will crest a bridge (over Hwy. 49) approximately two miles later. At the bottom of the hill, County Road 700 North is on the right. Turn right at that street. Camp is approximately two miles on the left.

FROM INTERSTATE 94: In either direction, exit the Chesterton/Valparaiso exit on U.S. Hwy. 49 south. After passing the exit for the In. Toll Road, approximately one mile, exit the Westville exit of US Hwy. 6, turn left at stoplight. At the next light, (Calumet Ave) turn right. The road will crest a bridge (over Hwy. 49) approximately two miles later. At the bottom of the hill, County Road 700 North is on the right. Turn right at that street. Camp is approximately two miles on the left.

What To Bring
In addition to the basics (clothing, capoeira stuff, etc) you'll want to bring bedding (sleeping bag or sheets), swim suit, towel. More details to follow. Send an email if you have specific questions.

Selling Merchandise
If you are interested in selling merchandise at the conference please let us know in advance. Individuals without advance permission from FICA Chicago will not be allowed to sell merchandise (t-shirts, CDs, etc.).
Any further questions can be directed to the group at: info (at) quilombocenter (dot) org

Here is there address to mail payments, registration:
Quilombo Cultural Center
1757 N Kimball Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647


Still Coming In: Pictures from the DC Women's Conference

**Links should be fixed!

Pictures keep on rolling in from the 10th Annual Women's Conference held in DC back in March. Please enjoy these photo albums from RusselH & Isabel.

Click here to view RusselH's pictures.

Click here to view IsabelG's pictures.

Click here to read the post we did back in March.

Planning for the next women's conference is already underway! With the theme, "Menina, quem foi sua mestra?", the conference will take place in March or April of 2009 in Salvador. If you would like to participate in the discussions and organizing of the conference, send an email to Mestre Janja letting her know your group affiliation at: janja (dot) araujo (at) uol (dot) com (dot) br

Thanks to Russel from Richmond, Isabel, & T Gege for the photos!


Orixás: Nanã Helps Create Humankind

Reginaldo Prandi, a sociologist from the University of São Paulo, is the author of the book Mitologia dos Orixás (Myths of the Orixás).

This is a really interesting book, and is great for those learning Portuguese because the writing is simple. In the book he presents 301 different myths relating the orixás. including this one about the creation of humankind:
Nanã supplies the mud to model humankind

They say that when Olorum charged Oxalá
With creating the world and modeling humankind,
The orixá tried various methods,
He tried to make man from air, like himself
It did not work because man faded away.
He tried to make man out of wood, but the creature was too hard
From rock, it was even worse.
He made man from fire and man burned up.
He tried oil, water, and even palm wine, but nothing worked.
It was then that Nanã Buruku came to help him.
She pointed to the bottom of the lake with her ibiri, her scepter and weapon.
And, from there she pulled a bit of mud for Oxalá
The mud at the bottom of the lake where she lived,
The mud beneath the waters that is Nanã.
Oxalá created man, modeled from mud.
With a blow of air Olorum he walked.
With the help of the orixás he populated the earth.
But there comes a day when man dies
And his body must return to the earth,
To return to nature, to Nanã Buruku.
Nanã gave the material in the beginning,
But in the end, she wants back all that belongs to her.
We will be presenting more myths from the book over the next couple of months, but if you want to look at the book yourself it is available in our archives for you enjoyment.


Celebrating 5 Years of Capoeira in Baltimore

Click here to view a slideshow of photos from last weekend 5 year anniversary celebration in Baltimore.

The weekend was full of events, including kids' workshops, adult classes led by Mestre Cobra Mansa, and a roda. Capoeiristas from New York, Philadelphia, and DC made the trip to help FICA-Baltimore celebrate this anniversary.

Many thanks to Adrian from New York City for the pictures.


FICA-Baltimore: Malcolm X Weekend Event

FICA-Baltimore presents:

5th Annual Malcolm X Roda
May 16 - 19, 2008
Harlem Park Recreation Center, 700 North Calhoun Street
Contact: info (at) baltimorecapoeira (dot) org, or call: 443-536-7177, or check the FICA-Baltimore website.

** FICA-Baltimore will also be hosting rodas on June 29th at the African-American Heritage Festival and on July 20th at Artscape. Both events will take place in Baltimore.


"The Fragrance of Flowers in the Air..."

Contramestre Cristina from Grupo Ypiranga de Pastinha in Rio de Janeiro was one of the guests at the 10th Annual Women’s Conference held in Washington, DC last month. It was really great to get to know her and learn about her path within Capoeira Angola in Rio de Janeiro. She wrote a wonderful piece for the conference, reflecting on the Women’s Encounters in Rio de Janeiro:
The fragrance of flowers in the air, the scented water cleansing the place… We could almost hear the beating of our hearts, accelerated by the expectation of the challenge that awaited. The arrival of Mestras Janja and Paulinha, bringing the courage that comes with feeling supported as well as the certainty of our purpose in that moment: the confirmation that our path was possible, despite of our fears, insecurities and the strangeness of our presence in the complicated universe of capoeira. And there were so many of us! A surprise that came to light when we formed an immense roda of women during that March in 1999. Where were all these women hiding themselves during the everyday rodas?

The memory of this moment instigated us, provoked within ourselves the desire for other actions…

… Our confrontations, our inquiries, ours afflicted lives and our huge desire to add all this to our passion for capoeira, turned this into a continual search for the understanding of diverse ways to create paths for us to exercise our power.

That is beautiful (and it sounds even better in the original Portuguese). You can read the whole thing in the latest issue of Caxixi, the literary magazine devoted to Capoeira Angola, available at FICA-DC.


This Saturday: Event in Belo Horizonte

The angoleiras of Belo Horizonte will commemorate the 119 anniversary of the birth of Mestre Pastinha, and invite all to participate in this Capoeira Angola event.

There will be workshops with mestres and contramestres of Capoeira Angola as well as a discussion about the role of wome in the universe of capoeira through the legacy of Mestre Pastinha.

Saturday, April 5
9 am - 1:30 pm: Capoeira Angola* and African Dance Workshops
1:30 pm - 3 pm: Cultural Lunch
3 pm - 5 pm: Discussion; Theme” “Production & Reproduction”
5 pm: Capoeira roda
7 pm: Closing

Workshops with:
Mestre Jurandir
Mestre Primo

Mestre Léo
Mestre Índio
Contramestre Renê
Contramestre Alcione

Questions & registration: 3212-9244/ 9735-9627 (Alcione)

Arriving by bus:
2102/01 - get off at R Caraça, 530
4102/01 - get off at R. Capivari, 616
9106/01 - get off at R. Trifana, 789
4111/01/04 - get off at Praça Cidade Do Porto, 1

Centro Cultural
Vila Marçola
Rua Mangabeira da Serra
320, Serra

* Bring your berimbau for music class.

Have fun!

Thanks to T Gege for the flyer.


Capoeira Magic on youtube

Shayna M from FICA-NYC has a great website devoted to capoeira. It is full of interesting articles, translations, and even an excellent dictionary. Recently, she spent hours studying and compiling a comprehensive collection of the most significant capoeira videos that have been uploaded to youtube, featuring some of the top talent that has graced, and in some cases, transformed this beautiful art form.

You are going to really enjoy these treasures, and maybe you will even learn a little something for your own game. Click here for the real deal.

Happy April 1!

Thanks to ShaynaM for her work, and her amazing website.