Capoeira is an elusive game, a cunning game that was developped by the African slaves that were first shipped to Brazil in the XVIe century.
Within this martial art form, cunning and agility are more important than brute force; what rules is not the law of the strongest, but the most cunning.
Capoeira mixes music, game, dance, acrobatics and fight within a collective, energetic experience that is the roda (‘circle’) – the circular theatre of the game – that is led by the orquestra (‘bateria’) and moved by songs. The roda is a place of expression where everyone contributes to the development of each one; during a roda, every capoeirista changes his or her role of being musician, singer, fighter and player.
Capoeira also brings with it the possibility of travelling, getting to know Brazil, its cultural and corporal language and codes, developping improvisation and also social development, generosity and a feeling for rythm and melody. Capoeira moves the body, but it is not a sport in the common sense of the word, as there does not exist a recognized competition. Each one practices this art according to one’s possibilities and develops oneself following one’s own rythm. It is not about winning or losing here, but about turning oneself over to the game.
Capoeira was prohibited and severely repressed during a long time in Brazil, as it was a way for the slaves to maintain their own cultural identity. As such, it served as a form of cultural resistance against the unjust and unfair regime. Capoeira was also a preparation for physical combat, and was used as such by runaway slaves and gangs and groups in the large cities. Only in 1937, in the city of São Salvador in the state of Bahia, its teaching was legalized. Since then, capoeira continued to develop into our epoch, where she has become the second national physical activity after football. The learning communities, them being groups or schools, contribute to its development and assure a connection with the tradition and history.
As a living art that originated from the history of slavery, capoeira today is taught in the whole world. Capoeira is at the same time a counter-culture, a philosophy and a unique way of popular education.
The designs used here belong to the artist Carybé (1911-1997)