Exploring the History of Capoeira

In July 2008, the Brazilian magazine “Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional” (History Magazine of the National Library) published the article “Berimbau Universal” by Lorenzo Aidé.

The article was published soon after Iphan recognized capoeira as a national patrimony in 2008. It reports that between 2007 and 2008, researchers produced an inventory of texts related to capoeira, including books, movies, and more. They also interviewed seventeen mestres, including Mestres João Pequeno, Russo, Leopoldina, Nestor and others. (Not for nothing, but only seventeen mestres? There are more than seventeen mestres in the city of Salvador alone.)

The article relates a bit of the history that the inventory revealed. And here, we present a little of that:
… The common sense, sacred origin myth associates the practice of capoeira with a rural environment: in the slave quarters, slaves demonstrated their resistance to captivity by training the marital arts inherited from their African ancestors, but they disguijavascript:void(0)sed these arts with dance and music so as not to spark the suspicion of the overseers and plantation owners. There is no documentation that confirms this theory. “There does not exist a single register of capoeira in Palmares, for example. It was more present in the port cities than in the quilombos”, explains Maurício Barros de Castro, Doctor of Social History from USP and assistant coordinator of the study.

Urban and marginal art. The oldest registration of capoeira that is known comes from Rio de Janeiro and dates to 1789. It is a document related to the liberation of a slave named Adão, who had been imprisoned for practicing “capoeiragem”. In the following century, “o capoeira”, in the masculine [the gender of the word], is already a figure recognized in the port cities. In these cities, the streets were areas of intense business, where those known as “escravos de ganho” [non-slaves who rented themselves out for work] dedicated themselves to sporadic work. In this atmosphere, people began to form groups, dispute territories, provoke fights and riots, and get in trouble with the police. The capoeira was the father of the malandro.

It is curious that in Salvador during almost all of the 19th century, the term “capoeira” does not appear. The art form was the same as that in Rio and Recife, but the press and the Salvadoran police used all sorts of synonyms to describe those marginal figures(“valentões”, “bambas”, “navalhistas”) and their crimes (“rabo de arraia”, cabeçada”, “rasteira”, “pontape”). Could it be that the word only came along later? Mauricio Barros de Castro doesn’t risk this conclusion, preferring to highlight another important point of the objective: that of stimulating new research. “Despite the work done by the researchers like Antonio Liberace, Fred Abreu, there is still much to be discovered in relation to 19th century Bahia, unlike Rio de Janeiro, about which we know very much,” he says.

In Recife, the study received much enthusiasm for the same reason – it is another city where there is not much documentation the subject. Known as the land of frevo, the capital city was also the place of much capoeiragem until police persecution reduced the presence of the practice, forcing practitioners to hide it within other popular manifestations. The steps of frevo were inspired by capoeira during Carnaval, pulling the cords with razors clenched in their fists, between twirls and pirouettes.

… It would not be an exaggeration to say that capoeira influenced the formation of our urban popular culture. Capoeiristas made up maltas, and they were also present in Brazil’s most significant conflict – capoeiras enlisted (and were enlisted) heavily in the War of Paraguay (1864-1870). In the political sphere, they created the Guarda Negra (1888), in defense of the monarchy and abolition, and served in three cities as political thugs – protecting both republicans and conservatives. In exchange, the authorities turned a blind eye to their street-fighting games…
Overall, this is an informative article and the inventory is an exciting project that may change the way we think about capoeira, but it raises important concerns about relying heavily on documented materials in re-constructing a history of a phenomenon that has largely been preserved orally.

This problem is further highlighted by the incredible fact that only seventeen mestres were interviewed. Police and war records are given priority over the knowledge of mestres. Surely there is much more important information left to be collected from the many mestres and long-time capoeiristas who were not interviewed.

Here is a link to the entire article (in Portuguese).

The “Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional” is an excellent magazine, and each month it almost always includes an article pertaining to capoeira or some similar subject. And of course, it includes many other interesting historical topics including an article on the King of Belguim’s 1920 visit, when he scandalized Rio de Janeiro’s high society and drew crowds of carioca spectators as he took his morning bath at Copabana beach. O la la!


Pictures from the FICA-São Paulo Event


A note from São Paulo:

Here are some pictures of the II Encounter of FICA-São Paulo.

We would like to thank Mestre Cobra Mansa, Mestre Valmir, Mestre Bigo (a student of Mestre Pastinha) and Treinel Thiago from FICA-BH.

We would also like to thank all the mestres, contra mestres, professors, treineis and students who participated in the rodas and workshops.

And we would especially like to thank the members of the FICA-São Paulo study group. Without you, this event would not have been possible. Let’s keep it up!

Abraços a todos e muito obrigado.



Washington, DC: Workshops with M Cobra Mansa

Hello camaradas:

FICA DC would like to invite you for a weekend of learning and sharing capoeira angola with Mestre Cobra Mansa.

Our weekend schedule will be as follow:

Friday, March 26th
7 pm - class with a little roda.

Saturday, March 27th
10:00 am - capoeira class
2:00 pm - capoeira class
6:00 pm - lecture and potluck party

Sunday, March 28th
9:30 am - capoeira roda

Price for the weekend is $50,00 or $20,00 per class


Location: ICAF - International Capoeira Angola Foundation 733 Euclid Street, NW WDC 20001
Telephone: 202-322-0828
ficadc (at) hotmail (dot) com


Montpellier, France: 12th International Encounter

12th International Capoeira Angola Encounter
FICA Montpellier – France

FICA-Montpellier has the pleasure to invite all to our annual encounter, which will take place from Friday, May 14 (4:30 pm) to Sunday, May 16 of 2010.

Invited Mestres:
M Valmir (FICA)
M Boca do Rio (Zimba)
M Índio (Angola Dobrada)

65 Euros until April 20
75 Euros, April 21 and after

Mail you registration form to:
(check + registration form, email ficamontpellier (at) yahoo (dot) fr for form)
1 Place Auguste Fages
34000 Montpellier

Bank transfers:
To the account of FICA Montpellier:
Bank Code: 30003
Guinche Code: 01430
Account Number: 00037271182 36
IBAN Code: FR76 30003 01430 00037271182 36
Bank: Société Générale, 34000 Montpellier

12 Rencontre Internationale de Capoeira Angola
FICA Montpellier – France

L’annonce officielle arrive un peu tard à cause de quelques difficultés pour trouver un lieu, mais ces problèmes sont à présent résolus et nous avons le plaisir de vous confirmer que la 12ème rencontre internationale de Capoeira Angola de Montpellier qui aura lieu du vendredi 14 (16h30) au dimanche 16 (18h) mai 2010.

Maîtres invités:
M Valmir (FICA)
M Boca do Rio (Zimba)
M Índio (Angola Dobrada)

65 Euros jusqu’au 20 avril
75 Euros à partir du 21 avril

Inscription par la poste:
(cheque + fiche d’inscription)
1 Place Auguste Fages
34000 Montpellier

Inscription par virement bancaire:
à l'ordre de FICA Montpellier, à ce compte :
Code Banque : 30003
Code Guichet : 01430
n° de compte : 00037271182 36
Code IBAN : FR76 30003 01430 00037271182 36
Banque : Société Générale, 34000 Montpellier


Salvador, Brazil: "Este Gunga Também é Meu!"

Associação Capoeira Angola Navio Negreiro

Este Gunga também é meu!

Acanne has the pleasure to invite all to take part in our March activities:

This month, we will begin our Lecture Roda (which will take place during class time) with the theme of “The Cosmogony of Capoeira”

In honor of all the guerreiras of the world, we hope that every day more angoleiras can shout out: “Este Gunga também é meu!”

* all activites will begin at 7 pm

March 5, Friday
Film Screeming: “Memórias do Recôncavo – Besouro e outros capoeiras”, discussion, table of fruits, and reggae

March 8, Monday
Film Screening: “A Cidade das Mulheres” and discussion

March 10, Wednesday
Lecture: “Ancestral Female Leadership”

March 12, Friday
Celebration of D. Maria Romélia: Roda de Capoeira Angola, table of fruits, and reggae

March 26, Friday
Lecture by Taata Mutá: “A Cosmogonia na Capoeira”, Roda de Capoeira Angola, table of fruits, and reggae

Place: Acanne, Rua do Sodré, no. 48 – Largo Dois de Julho – Salvador
Tel: 71 3321 7496/ 9146 5999
mestrerene (at) yahoo (dot) com
acannezion (at) hotmail (dot) com

Thanks to Paulo M for the flyer.


Bogota, Colombia: Celebrating International Women's Day

Homage to International Women’s Day

“Diversity and the Construction of Equal Rights”

Roda de Capoeira Angola
Open roda, all are invited to watch, learn, chat, play, sing and vadiar!

Monday, March 8, 2010
6 pm
Cr. 7, No. 45-62
Bogota, Colombia

Homenaje al Día Internacional de la Mujer, a su Participación y continua contribución en la Capoeira.

“Diversidad y la construcción del derecho a la equidad.”
La pregunta no debería ser que obstáculos deben vencer las mujeres, si no “Cuales son los obstáculos que necesitan ser vencidos por la Capoeira para integrar de manera respetuosa y calificada la presencia de la mujer?” (Mestre Janja, Textos de Brasil No. 14)

“…la Capoeira está en constante dialogo con la sociedad que la rodea,…y las luchas de las mujeres en la sociedad, también son vividas en la práctica de la Capoeira.” (Mestre Janja, Textos de Brasil No. 14)

Rueda de Capoeira Angola,
Abierta, están todos invitados a asistir, conocer, charlar, tocar, cantar y vadiar!

Lunes 8 de marzo (con lluvia, sin lluvia, con paro o sin paro!)

Cr. 7 No. 45-62

Thanks to Fabricio for the note!


São Paulo, Brazil: Workshops with M Russo

O Zelador
in São Paulo

Mestre Russo de Caxias

03/02, Tuesday
Escola Cultural Zunga Capoeira & Casa Mestre Ananais
6 pm, pick up event t-shirt
8 pm, visit to the Casa Mestre Ananais & roda de capoeira

03/03, Wednesday
Escola Cultural Zunga Capoeira
7 pm, lecture and discussion with the Mestres

03/04, Thursday
Centro de Capoeira Angola Angoleiro Sim Sinhô
7 pm, Roda de Capoeira

03/05, Friday
Escola Cultural Zunga Capoeira
7 pm, Roda de Capoeira

03/06, Saturday
Espaço Chico Science – Ngolo ia Muanda
10 am, class with M Russo & M Peixe

Teatro da UMES (Rua Rui Barbosa, 323)
5 pm, Screening of the film “O Zelador”

03/07, Sunday
Praça Dom Orione
10 am, Street Roda (close of event)

Cost: R$40,00

Information: 23081306 (Escola Cultural Zunga Capoeira)
81788486 (Cacá), 84165234 (Cabeleira)

Rua Almirante Marques Leão, 787 – Bela Vista