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Capoeira: The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art - Wikipedia
The analysis of these narratives hopefully will illuminate the relevance of some painstaking discussions considered in the subsequent chapters of this book. To reconstruct the various levels and types of discourses on capoeira that were elaborated by different social actors over time is an arduous task. Intellectuals and academics, government and authorities were not the only ones to formulate their views on capoeira.
Yet only very occasionally can we get a glimpse of what nineteenth-century slave or free practitioners thought about their art. Nevertheless their views and practices clearly had an impact on the way authorities or intellectuals reflected on capoeira, and we have therefore to consider the problem of their interaction. Circularity undeniably existed between these different actors practitioners, authorities, elites, scholars and became stronger — and more visible — during the twentieth century. Although aware of that danger, I still think it is worthwhile to attempt to explain how master narratives on capoeira developed.
My focus in this chapter is therefore on the history of ideologies, with only occasional references to institutions or social backgrounds when necessary. Eurocentric repression The first discourse about capoeira we know of emphatically condemned the practice and implemented every possible means to eradicate it.
First formulated by police officers and politicians, it was taken on board by the ruling elite and the middle class of urban slave owners. The elaboration of this discourse took place in a very specific historical moment and context, namely after the transmigration of the Portuguese court to Brazil, in For almost 14 years Rio de laneiro became the provisional capital of the Portuguese Empire, before converting into the capital of a new empire in the tropics. Until then, capoeira does not — as far as we know — figure in police records, mainly because no police really worth that name existed.
Hired by the town council, they had no legal power of arrest. Hence one of the first measures adopted by the prince regent Joao VI consisted in the establishment of a Police Intendant in Rio, and, subordinated to him, a Royal Police Guard, both replicas of similar institutions in Lisbon, themselves inspired by earlier French models. Among all forms of behaviour considered improper by the elites, capoeira was always considered the most dangerous one for public safety. What is remarkable is rather how this discourse was adapted and survived the political changes of the subsequent period.
Brazilian Independence came in the form of a constitutional monarchy, which recognized civil rights the right to vote, freedom of association, habeas corpus, etc. These rights were enshrined in the Constitution, and granted to all Brazilians, including former slaves — as long as they were born in Brazil and not in Africa.
In theory, and if they had the necessary property qualifications, freedmen thus enjoyed political rights although subjected to several restrictions, not being eligible for any office. Slaves were not granted any rights, and were barely mentioned in the founding text of the nation. In practice, however, not only slaves, but freedmen and even the free poor remained subjected to the arbitrary practices of the police, suffering arrest, summary punishments in the form of whipping, and detention without trial.
Adapting the new liberal ideology to a highly stratified slave society that relied on heavy physical coercion to control even the poorer segment of its free population represented a major dilemma for Brazilian elites. Several attempts in the s and s to make police and judicial practice conform to liberal principles were met with strong opposition from conservative elites and civil servants alike and ultimately failed. On the other side, the criminalization of cultural practices such as capoeira was not consistent with liberal ideology, and legislators therefore found it difficult to formally outlaw its practice.
This contradiction resulted in the curious situation whereby capoeira was neither included in the Criminal Code of the Empire nor any other law voted by parliament, and not even the municipal laws of the city of Rio. The discourse advocating outright repression of capoeira was so hegemonic during most of the nineteenth century, that even scholars genuinely committed to the study of popular culture such as Silvio Romero despised the art and only lamented that: Capoeira was now seen as representing a hideous practice reflecting lower class, and particularly African, barbarism.
It became therefore again paramount to eliminate this obstacle to progress. They therefore had few scruples in formally outlawing capoeira. The first three articles criminalized idleness; the last three exclusively dealt with capoeira see Chapter 3. Although now finally enshrined in the Criminal Code of the Republic, the discourse of repression started to be challenged by a growing numbers of middle-class and elite individuals. Even though no longer hegemonic after the s, the longevity of that discourse had long lasting effects.
The association of capoeira with the underworld of vagrancy, crime and marginality was not completely inaccurate; it nevertheless did not take into account the insertion of many, if not most capoeiras in the world of labour see Chapters 3 and 4. The very meaning of what constituted a nation evolved substantially since the late eighteenth century, when it only meant people borne by the same mother or, by extension, from similar ancestry.
The term was even used to denote opposition to civilized or Christian peoples, and that is why European colonial sources so frequently refer to African nations.
These changes in terminology reflect shifts in emphasis on how the nation was to be defined: The aftermath of independence in Brazil coincided with the establishment of Romanticism as the predominant art movement among the literary elites. The tropical nature of most of the Brazilian territory, which had already impressed colonial writers of European origin, furnished an evergreen theme to define the nation.
Building on the pastoral tropes of the Enlightenment, romantic writers exalted in even stronger colours the Brazilian nature. They founded a core national myth that was to have a long lasting impact on the national imagination. Native Brazilians seemed to provide an outstanding example of a life in harmony with nature. Writers such as Jose de Alencar and Gongalves Dias exploited the edenic motive of the Indian in the Brazilian wilderness.
In their work, the native Indian is stylized and romantically transfigured into a medieval knight.
The first literary symbol of Brazilian-ness hence resembled a key character of European romanticism. It is here that we can locate the remote origins of the myth that depicts capoeira as a creation inspired by the Brazilian nature. Intellectuals were by no means the only ones to devise symbols of identity and nationhood. Other social groups had quite different perceptions of the nation. Popular lusophobia might not have been more than a negative way of defining the national character, but it re- emerged later in the century and was always strongly associated with extreme nationalism.
Although sources are not very extensive about popular views of the emerging nation, some documents from mainly urban rebellions suggest that a radical version of liberalism advocated equal rights for citizens of all colours, only excluding the African slaves. Harsh repression, however, drove more inclusive visions of a democratic empire into oblivion or at least limited their wider impact. Even though the resident Portuguese insulted Brazilian patriots in return as cabras goats, dark skinned mulattos , it seems that these rarely adopted African ancestry or even miscegenation as a positive value.
Most, especially the lighter-skinned patriots, preferred to identify instead with the Native Americans. As racial theories became hegemonic in nineteenth-century European science, the racial factor gained more and more weight in the discussions about the national character. Brazilian intellectuals were thus caught in a rather unenviable dilemma: Hence most appraisals after the s tended to lament the racial handicap of Brazilians whose ancestors were, in their majority, Africans or Indians. They all shared, unsurprisingly, the belief in white superiority, but clashed over crucial aspects such as the meaning of miscegenation.
Polygenic approaches tended to dismiss mestizos as degenerate or even sterile mulato is derived from mule! Some Brazilian scholars very skilfully picked out the aspects of different theories that suited them most, and developed their own conceptions. At the time of its conception, the ideology of whitening therefore seemed to offer an alternative to the absolute pessimism that haunted so many Brazilian intellectuals during the period It is precisely because ideologies enhancing the positive values of miscegenation have been historically associated with the whitening ideology promoting an assimilationist model that black movements tend to dismiss all of them as a white strategy of ethnocide.
Since the creation of the Historical and Geographical Institute, in , a more historicist tradition had gained a foothold in Brazil. The Germanophile Silvio Romero, author of the first History of Brazilian Literature was a precursor in that direction. Although he initially almost despaired over the racial handicap of Brazilians and even dismissed the dominant Iberian stock as inferior when compared to the Germanic sub-types, he considered the possibility of a new, original mestigo type, a result of race mixture and the environment.
Not only did he advocate the study of the customs of the Brazilian people, but also made important contributions towards that end, in particular in the field of popular poetry, following the German romantic model of searching cultural roots of the nation in its folklore. His method consisted in identifying the original elements that the mestigo combined. Euclides da Cunha made a further, extremely influential contribution in his book Rebellion in the Backlands , where he suggested that the Brazilian mestigo had already developed specific characteristics.
Although initially da Cunha wanted to prove the degeneration of the mestigo, he became so impressed with the heroic resistance of the charismatic leader and his supporters, that he concluded the isolation of the semiarid sertao backlands did have positive effects on the racial type which was rather in contradiction to his theoretical assumptions. Da Cunha was part of a whole generation of writers, such as Capistrano de Abreu and Coelho Neto, who stigmatized the cities as Europeanized whereas the true Brazil was to be found in the vast interior. In summary, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the mestigo provided intellectuals searching for the national character with a new subject on which to graft their theories.
Racial theories also shaped immigration policies. Black labourers from Africa or North America were clearly undesirable, and even Asians Chinese were initially rejected, though a quarter of a million Japanese were later allowed to enter the country. This shift in policy reflects not only a lack of firm consensus among the elites, but also an important change in the ways foreign migrants were perceived and integrated.
As enthusiasm for European workers was tamed by their labour activism or their unwillingness to assimilate, intellectuals and politicians increasingly worried about the consequences of massive immigration for nation building and the need to construct a Brazilian identity not based on the emulation of European models or a linear process of whitening. Popular resentment against the favouritism Portuguese male migrants commonly enjoyed when applying for jobs or competing for Brazilian women expressed itself in the revival of the anti-Portuguese imagery in the independence period.
The so-called Jacobins, a radical nationalist, pro-republican movement in the s and s, built upon these resentments to gather support in Rio de Janeiro, the city with the largest Portuguese community. Placido de Abreu, a Portuguese-born writer and bohemian, a practitioner of capoeira himself, denied that it had African or Indigenous origins: Contrary to Romero who prefaced his work , Mello Moraes disapproved of large-scale European immigration and the Europeanization of customs heralded by the elite as the only means to progress.
He advocated that urban popular culture, in particular the Catholic festivals, constituted the privileged site where the Brazilian national character had developed. As Leticia Reis has shown, Mello Moraes needed to invert the basic chronology of capoeira development in order to support his argument. The nationalist discourse was already influencing perceptions and structuring interpretations of capoeira, misrepresenting a black slave practice as a mestizo art.
In the final confrontation between the two rival males, which symbolizes the wider conflict between Portuguese and Afro-Brazilians, both make use of their national fighting art: As I hope to have made clear, the shifting significance of mestigo identities in the construction of a Brazilian national discourse affected the meaning of capoeira from the last quarter of the nineteenth century onwards. As national identities were constructed more and more around popular cultural manifestations, and elites became increasingly aware that the only observable homogeneity of the Brazilian people consisted in an immense array of mixtures, the attitude towards capoeira evolved substantially.
At the very moment capoeira was being eradicated from the streets of Rio de Janeiro by ruthless repression, the absolute criminalization of its practice was increasingly questioned by a growing number of middle-class people. They adopted a more benevolent even if still highly ambivalent attitude towards the art, because they considered it a possible tool in the construction of Brazilian identity.
Yet for capoeira to become a marker of Brazilian-ness, its slave origins had to be hidden and its mestigo character emphasized. The search for a Brazilian gymnastics: Since drafted conscripts were now fighting in large scale wars, strategists underlined the importance of national recruits — and therefore the entire male population — being well trained.
Early attempts to develop specifically national methods of training began in Europe during the early nineteenth century. In Denmark Franz Nachtegall had founded the Military Institute of Gymnastics in ; physical education became a compulsory discipline in Danish schools as early as In Germany Friedrich Ludwig Jahn built the first gymnastics ground Turnplatz in , initiating the movement of Gymnastics Associations Turnvereine.
Ever since, gymnastics has been seen as a means to improve the male fitness of the nation and therefore its martial capacity. For that reason the military have always been associated with the search for national gymnastics. Ju-jitsu masters started to travel around the world to show their skills and challenge local fighters. As we are going to see in Chapter 5, this resulted in an intense interaction between Eastern and Western martial arts.
For Brazilian nationalists, these developments confirmed the urgency to identify and develop a national fighting art, and once again they turned their attention towards capoeira. In one of the first extensive reports on capoeira published in , the anonymous author L. Created by the inventive spirit of the mestizo, because capoeira is neither Portuguese nor black, [but] mulatto, cafusa [mixture of Indian and black] and mameluca [mixture of Indian and white], that is, cross-breed, mestigo; the mestigo having annexed, through atavistic principles and with intelligent adaptation, the razor of the fadista from the Mouraria [popular, former Moorish neighbourhood] of Fisbon, some danced and simian [monkey-like] movements of the African, and, above all, the dexterity, the feline lightness of the Indian in the quick jumps from one side to the other and forwards, weightless and unpredictable, and surprisingly, as a Royal tiger, backwards, but always facing the enemy.
These discussions among Belle Epoque intellectuals were not merely academic, but reflected wider concerns about nation building which also involved journalists, politicians and the army. During that same year the Brazilian parliament debated conscription again, which army reformers had been asking for since the establishment of the republic, and which was finally adopted in Both popular classes and liberals opposed general conscription.
For many, life in the barracks, far from constituting an elevating experience, encouraged sodomy or made conscripts more likely to be cuckolded. At that stage new military models of masculinity were imported from abroad. The British Boy Scouts founded in became widely popular in Brazil.
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Only then did military- style training become more fashionable and even acceptable for the sons of the well to do. The humiliating military defeat against Germany in had made the French military keen not only to make gymnastics compulsory in schools but also to have the military involved in its teaching. According to him, they even considered sending a project to the Brazilian parliament that would establish capoeiragem as a compulsory discipline in state owned institutions and the barracks.
Echoing da Cunha he recommended: If you want to cultivate an elegant game, adequate for self-defence, a game of noble dexterity which is not brutal and demeaning, there you have our unsurpassable and invincible capoeira game, a game born from racial and environmental factors which shaped our nascent race. In that respect eugenics were to race what hygienization was to the culture of the popular classes. Perhaps inspired by the already mentioned O. The author, a sportsman, practitioner of Swedish gymnastics, athletics and boxing, departed from earlier nationalist views insofar as he recognized the slave origins of capoeira.
According to him, runaway slaves invented the art. They did not build on previous African traditions, but rather developed it in the intimate contact with nature and whilst resisting their capture: The last sentence became a catchphrase repeated ad infinitum by future generations of capoeiristas. I think Burlamaqui should be given credit for inventing the powerful myth of runaway slaves creating capoeira in the wilderness. His proposal, once more reflected the idea that capoeira, in order to serve national ideals, had to be hygienized, adapted, and reformed.
Yet for the first time, someone had developed a concrete training method based on these nationalist principles. After racial theories came increasingly under attack in US academia. That change of paradigm had a profound impact on Brazil, in particular through the work of Gilberto Freyre , who studied anthropology with Boas.
His classic essay on the genesis of Brazilian society, The Masters and Slaves valorized, for the first time, the biological miscegenation of white masters and enslaved Indians and Africans. According to him, a parallel process of cultural hybridization had taken place in Brazil, resulting in the adoption of Indian and African elements in Brazilian culture. Later critics have pointed out that his writings are rather ambiguous and still contain reminiscences of racial ideology. Widely acclaimed in the s, his work remained very influential throughout the twentieth century.
For instance, since Freyre the metaphor of biological miscegenation has been frequently used to describe cultural processes of hybridization. Furthermore, his work was paramount to formulate the myth of racial democracy, a device through which subsequent Brazilian governments avoided any discussion of the racial discrimination occurring in the country. Major political change also altered the ways brasilidade was discussed and promoted.
The revolution of profoundly restructured the whole field of culture. From now on the state was to have an important, if not decisive role in cultural management. Cultural nationalism became hegemonic during the period and has remained influential at state level ever since. Traditionalists eager to sponsor the neo-colonial style clashed with modernists promoting disciples of Le Corbusier.
More importantly, the Constitution instituted compulsory physical education in all schools. All new teachers, even civilians, were enrolled at the School of Physical Education of the Army. An army officer was appointed chief of the new Division of Physical Education DEF , who imposed the teaching of the French method throughout the country. Ever since, physical education in Brazil has been closely associated with the military.
Capoeira: The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art (Sport in the Global Society)
During many years he tried to convince his superiors that capoeira should become the Brazilian gymnastics. One of the reasons was that the writings on capoeira from the Bahian School such as Querino and Carneiro analysed below had made clear that capoeira was more than a by-product of colonial exploitation and resistance to slavery in the Brazilian environment, and that it also built on earlier African traditions. This resulted in a slight re-adaptation of the nationalist discourse on capoeira. Although originally from the blacks negros , capoeiragem was assimilated and developed by the mestizos — mulattos, finding a productive field and new qualities to explore.
Yet Brazilian nationalists, in particular sympathizers of European fascism such as Marinho, often clung to these outdated theories. Marinho and many others still reproduced the stereotype of the intelligent and skilful mulatto during subsequent decades: From the inner depths of my being arises a new craving for corporal expression, as if my soul had escaped from centuries of oppression. I shall no longer be compelled to repeat the typical gestures of cultural affirmation of other nations. I have succeeded in freeing myself from those rhythms that obsessed me, upset the balance of my movements, and suppressed the musicality of my forebears.
At last I became aware of my own rhythm, which helped me cast off age-old inhibitions and allowed me to give free rein to my feelings, hopes, thoughts, and ideals! Now I am free! They are sacrificed for the sake of a homogenous nation created by unspecified ancestors. As we are going to see in Chapter 7, the exaltation of Brazil in capoeira, especially in capoeira Regional circles, has not stopped ever since. With roots in the patriotism of Brazilian independence and the nationalist surge of the First Republic, it developed in particular during the intense nationalist mobilization of the populist regimes and the nationalist indoctrination promoted by the military dictatorship In that respect it is understandable how legitimately shocked they feel when confronted with the competing ethno-nationalist discourse advocating the African character of capoeira.
The search for purity and survivals: Slaves caught playing capoeira in the s and s often displayed markers of their particular ethnic origins, such as hats or feathers. As capoeira in Rio became more creolized, affiliations with particular gangs tended to replace earlier expressions of ethnic identity see Chapter 3. Following Mello Moraes in Rio, he enhanced the folkloric side of capoeira and suggested it ranked equally to other national sports.
Querino, an Afro-Brazilian, did not support the dominant racist theories of his time, perhaps an indication that these were less pervasive among non-white Brazilians than some scholars seem to suggest. The existence of a particularly vibrant Afro-Brazilian community and culture was certainly paramount to the development of a local school of thought that sought to study Bahian religion and culture. He still remained within the paradigms of European racial theories of his time, advocating for instance, that Negroes and Indians, being racially inferior, could not be expected to behave like whites and thus the Criminal Code should not treat them as equals.
His commitment to research different aspects of Afro-Bahian culture resulted not only in precursor studies but also influenced a whole generation of younger scholars that continued his research. His appreciation of the different levels of popular religiosity had a long-lasting impact.
According to him, the Brazilian mestizos — many of which adopted the candomble de Angola or de caboclo — had the same intellectual level as the Bantus. If Ramos no longer believed in the racial inferiority of the Negro, he was still convinced that blacks possessed a pre-logical mentality and an inferior culture, which was condemned to disappear. According to Herskovits, a situation of contact between two unequal cultures produced three different outcomes: Acceptance meant the culture of the colonizer was assimilated, resulting in the loss of the former culture.
This, predicted Artur Ramos, was to be the final destination for the black groups in Brazil and elsewhere. Reaction designated the rejection of acculturation, resulting in the maintenance of the original cultures, as expressed in some counter-acculturative movements. Thus a capoeira performance was included in the programme of the Second Afro-Brazilian Congress he organized in Salvador in see Chapter 6. From that moment capoeira started to be recognized as an important expression of ethnic identity, and more particularly as a marker of the Bantu contribution to Afro-Brazilian culture.
The study of Afro-Brazilian culture was profoundly altered from the s onwards with the contribution of the French sociologist Roger Bastide Moving a way from the pathologizing approaches towards Afro-Brazilian religion, Bastide demonstrated the rationality of candomble and trance. His work not only inspired a generation of scholars, but was also very popular among candomble priests.
For Bastide the Nago cult houses were committed to the maintenance of African traditions, whilst the terreiros identified with the Bantus candomble de Angola in Bahia, macumba in Rio de Janeiro were more inclined to accept assimilation and syncretism. We also owe to him a pioneering attempt to compare capoeira with other combat games in the Caribbean.
This support certainly helped the most prestigious Nago cult houses to escape police persecution and to obtain wider recognition in local society. The discourse of Nago purity became hegemonic after the s and still lingers on in many quarters in Brazil. Its implications are however more ambiguous than one might think at first sight; indeed the idea of Nago authenticity can also serve as a strategy of domination. The revaluation of one single African tradition can be instrumental in demoting the culture of the majority of blacks who followed other, in particular more syncretic manifestations, such as the candombles de caboclo.
Herskovits commented that he had seen similar combat games in Africa and in different locations in the Americas. Equally ignored were local attempts to revitalize traditional capoeira in Bahia see Chapter 6. In contrast to nationalist Brazilian discourses, transatlantic approaches towards capoeira have only in recent times conquered greater public space. Because they have been marginalized from academic institutions and mainstream publishing until recently there is not the same density of material or even research.
Afrocentric perspectives have provided an important critique of Brazilian nationalist claims regarding the origins and characteristics of capoeira over the last years. Even though they share some of the perspectives of discourses emphasizing the ethnic character of the art, they can also be quite distinct in their conclusions from the narratives we discussed so far.
Some of them actively promote a pan-African agenda which impacts heavily on the way capoeira is perceived and re-appropriated. His journey was part of a wider pursuit. His drawings and comments point out similarities in the material culture dwellings, food, clothes and street festivals in Angola, Cabo Verde, Guine Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Brazil.
Neves e Sousa seems to have been particularly impressed by how Angolan Brazil still was. The epigraph to his work, published later in Angola, stated: He even although rather unconvincingly compared M. Yet at this stage both the scholar and the mestre only considered it a possibility, not an established fact see Chapter 6. Also, in institutional terms Cascudo held a rather marginalized position in the field of Brazilian folklore studies and thus his stance on capoeira origins did initially not have that much impact.
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Meanwhile, the idea of Nago purity versus Bantu lack of tradition also came under attack in other quarters. His piece on the Bakongo identified Kongo symbolic patterns in ground-drawings, charms or burial grounds in the African American Diaspora. He shows for instance that the cross, far from constituting an evidence for Christian influence, is also a key element in Kongo cosmology.
The ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik highlighted concrete traits of Angolan culture in Brazil, showing the continuity of rhythmic patterns, instruments, dances and games, among them capoeira. Julio Cesar de Souza Tavares defended the first academic thesis on capoeira at the University of Brasilia, in And, residually, capoeira is a characteristic of Afro-Brazilianness, a non-verbal repertoire of communication, a bodily-gestured channel of communication, a gesticulated bricolage, and the condensation of a bodily knowledge from an African matrix.
Brazilian groups, in return, attracted growing interest among black US militants, and as a result contacts were established and links intensified. Precisely at that time — the s — Capoeira Angola was being revitalized in Brazil see Chapter 7 , and its practitioners started to put forward more explicitly the idea that capoeira, and in particular the Angola style, stood for African identity. That was still a provocative statement in the authoritarian context of the s, making it necessary for the group leader, M.
Moraes, to issue a disclaimer: Defending the African-ness of capoeira does not mean that the GCAP is involved in any movement of segregation, as some people tend to believe, but rather to call the attention of a part of society which still persists in spreading the idea that capoeira is a genuine Brazilian manifestation, without taking into consideration that the African black made a great contribution to our cultural formation.
In contrast with earlier denigrations, Bantu and Angola were now reclaimed as positive symbols, metaphors for tradition. In the United States, an exhibition hosted by the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York in was an important step in that direction. In the Americas everyone practices some aspects of these Central African traditions in their daily lives, but without recognizing these activities as having a Kongo-Angola origin.
For example, rumba, tango and samba, to name just three dances, are viewed in their respective countries as national dances. In reality, these dances should be understood as Central African movement forms shared with the world through their countries. In fact some militants, scholars or capoeira adepts significantly contributed not only to the diffusion of the more traditionalist capoeira Angola style in the United States, but also participated in the elaboration of the angoleiro agenda in organizations such as GCAP.
Afrocentric interest in transatlantic links for instance contributed to replace capoeira in its wider context and to rethink anew its relationship with other combat games of the diaspora, usually downplayed or even completely negated by nationalist discourses that insist on its uniqueness and Brazilian-ness. Robert Farris Thompson, in his otherwise groundbreaking article on black martial arts of the Caribbean, for example asserts that The Kongo presence in the development of Afro-Cuban mani and bambosa in the nineteenth-century dance-battles of Cuban blacks is manifest.
According to Fernando Ortiz [. Two men battled to the beat of Kongo-derived drums called yukaf 4 Unfortunately Ortiz never wrote that, since he was convinced that mam came from West Africa. He only stated that the chants were sometimes in an African language, but usually in Creole and reproduced one African chant whose origin he could not identify. Moreover, Ortiz only described the drums as vertical, cylindric, made of avocado trunk, but did not call them yuka nor ascribed them a Kongo origin.
In fact, based on interviews with practitioners and his intimate knowledge of all things Afro-Cuban, the eminent scholar explicitly attributed the origins of the mani combat game to the Ganga, more particularly the Ganga Mam. Ortiz related that ethnic group to either the Mandinga or the Ewe — in both cases West Africa and clearly not Central Africa.
Capoeira: The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art
Current Cuban anthropology also locates the Ganga in contemporary Sierra Leone. Desch-Obi furthermore affirms that during the nineteenth century capoeira was called engolo in Brazil, and that M. This kind of unsubstantiated statement, not borne out by a any serious evidence, might seem useful to reinforce the point about the Angolan character of capoeira. Yet in the long run it will be counterproductive, since it contributes to discrediting the Afrocentric approach and hinders a deeper understanding of capoeira history.
There are sufficient facts to corroborate the Angolan origins of capoeira — we do not need to invent any. In its most extreme formulation, capoeira thus appears as an entirely African manifestation, taken by Angolan slaves to Brazil, rescued in the s and now spreading among African Americans of the diaspora see the Nardi quote at beginning of this chapter. Needless to say that this clashes frontally with what many Brazilians think about capoeira.
Although these master narratives appear totally incompatible, I would argue that an examination of the issue of creolization in capoeira can provide a middle ground for a more consensual narrative. Just as the Eurocentric or Brazilian nationalist discourses, in opposition to which it tends to define itself, the Afrocentric narrative can equally become one-sided in its approach.
It also tends to homogenize the continent and freeze its culture in a pre -modern and non- Western state of authenticity. Culture is perceived in terms of biological analogies and fixed geographical locations, paradoxically reproducing the same underlying grammar of the colonialist discourse. The negative sign attributed to all things African is inverted, but it runs the risk of reinstating old discourses under the same premises and falling into analogous essentialisms.
The extreme Afrocentric narrative depends thus more than it would like to admit on the discourses it wants to reject to maintain its consistency. As culture here also has much to do with identity formations, essentialist views, independently of where they are located, it will tend to be more exclusive than inclusive. Essentialism of all kinds easily leads to fundamentalism. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.
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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Capoeira by Matthias Rohrig Assuncao. Originally the preserve of Afro-Brazilian slaves, the marginalized and the underclasses in Brazilian society, capoeira is now a mainstream sport, taught in Brazilian schools and practised by a range of social classes around the world.
Some advocates now seek Olympic recognition for Capoeira. This apparent change in the meaning and purpose of Capeoira has led to conflicts b Originally the preserve of Afro-Brazilian slaves, the marginalized and the underclasses in Brazilian society, capoeira is now a mainstream sport, taught in Brazilian schools and practised by a range of social classes around the world. This apparent change in the meaning and purpose of Capeoira has led to conflicts between traditionalists, who view capoeira as their heritage descended from the maroons, a weapon to be used against the injustice and repression; and reformers, who wish to see Capoeira develop as an international sport.
The History of Afro-Brazilian Martial Art explores Capoeira as a field of confrontation where the different struggles that divide Brazilian society are played out.