Brazil: The Father of Capoeira—or the Mother?

8 05 2008

Despite the title, this post is not exactly about how capoeira originated. It’s about something I heard recently, and wanted to…question? Correct? Mostly because I didn’t say anything at the time I heard it, and slightly kind of regret it now; so I’m saying it here!

Capoeira, the child of Africa and Brazil

I was at an event when a mestre (well, okay, my mestre) started talking about capoeira, and partway through he said, “Africa is the mother of capoeira…and Brazil is the father.” At this point there was a rippling of “oohhhhs” and laughter among the students, and a self-satisfied pause at his own joke. But I just wondered…why was that funny/how was it a joke? I thought making the comparison was fine (though inaccurate, as I’ll discuss shortly), but were people laughing because of the idea that Brazil “overpowered” Africa, or seized its flower of capoeira, or something? Because in that case, it really wouldn’t have been funny at all.

As for the comparison itself, first I thought it was fine (without the supposed-to-be-funny part), but thinking upon it further, I realized it was actually wrong. Assuming that the way, way-back roots of capoeira are from Africa (safe general statement #1) and that the actual sport/art as we know it today came to flourish in Brazil (safe general statement #2), then…Africa is actually the father of capoeira, and Brazil is the mother.

Why? Think about it. (Note: This is going to be all based on stereotypes…since that’s how metaphors work.) Africa provided the seed of capoeira, but it was the environment in Brazil that nourished and raised capoeira (even if at one point Brazil actually tried to abort it, but you get what I mean…though even in that respect, to whom do abortions usually apply?). The genes and chromosomes of capoeira came from both Africa and Brazil, but it was inside Brazil where they actually combined and merged and grew into the fully-formed art of capoeira (or as fully-formed as a constantly changing and evolving art can get). The gestation period of capoeira took place in Brazil—that is, Brazil was the womb. And who has those?

So, with all due respect to the mestre…if one insists on making this particular comparison, it’d be more accurate to say that Africa was the father of capoeira, and Brazil the mother. Not the other way around. And that doesn’t mean Brazil is weaker than or has been subjugated by Africa. Just my two cents!

Picture source:



9 responses

8 05 2008

Hi Joaninha,

Glad you came by my blog. I just noticed that you now have clean URLs too πŸ˜‰ I’m glad my post was of help!

Best wishes,

9 05 2008

haha! absolutely brilliant rationale.

9 05 2008

Thanks, Raul; you too!

Haha Carvao, glad you thought so. πŸ™‚

9 05 2008


Seed equals fertility. Never has a man been god/symbol/… for that. Always a woman. –> Africa

Putting things together on the other hand sounds like craftsmanship, which always has been symbolised by a man. –> Brazil


9 05 2008

Lol…sorry Xixarro, I’m going to have to stick to mine here! Not to get too mired in the details, but the seed can’t do anything without fertile *soil*…fertility isn’t necessarily the seed itself, but where the seed can get the nutrients it needs, and grow…and the seed grew in Brazil. πŸ˜› Not to mention…! ^^”

Also, really? I don’t know about that (craftsmanship being symbolized as male, especially when you think of Native American culture, where everyone participates in craftsmanship of different things), but even if, it still isn’t quite right…because capoeira wasn’t put together in the sense of craftsmanship…no one went to Africa and took some materials from there, then went to Brazil and took some materials from there, and deliberately put them together in a structured and thought-out way…It wasn’t put together in the sense of a chair or a piece of metalwork, it just came together. Capoeira just happened…like a baby πŸ˜›

9 05 2008

I was just joking Joa, hence the smiley πŸ˜‰

9 05 2008

Oh…hahah…sorry…I’m just a stickler for details (could you tell?)! XD

12 05 2008

Just a thought… I wonder if the “Africa = mother” thing came from a misapplication of Pastinha’s famous statement that begins Angola, capoeira mae… in which he calls capoeira angola the “mother capoeira,” the one that gave birth to the other styles, so to speak.

Plus, Africa is commonly referred to as the “motherland” – the birthplace and womb of humanity, for one thing, and also the origin of the many and varied African cultural traditions found throughout the diaspora.

So I kind of suspect that it was these associations, rather than gender roles/stereotypes, that led him to define Africa as the mother and then Brazil by default as the other parent… I wouldn’t read into it any more than that.

12 05 2008

Shayna–I didn’t know about Pastinha’s quote, but I thought of the Africa thing too, afterwards!! I was wondering about it because if I just think “Africa, mother” to myself holistically it does make sense to some part of me, and I think what you said is exactly why…that Africa is the motherland and womb of all humanity. And don’t worry…it wasn’t keeping me up at night πŸ˜‰

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