4/30/08

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.

1 comment:

curisco-m said...

HI there,
The article refering to:
"Mestre Poloca entitled, “Capoeira and Candomblé”" was incredibly fascinating. Living in Sweden i wonder is it possible to get a hold of/read "the fourth edition of the magazine Toques D’Angola" also to somehow subscribe to a regular update as well as past issues to which obviously seem to be a must have read for all Angoleiros?

/Curisco