Looking at the “Capoeira” in “Capoeira Regional”

5 08 2008

Capoeira regional

Something very interesting occurred to me as I was typing up my responses to the “Feminism, Capoeira, Cultural Appropriation, & Black Self-Determinationdiscussion. The funny thing is that after I published and reread what I’d written, I realized that my “epiphany” was actually a really common and oft-argued viewpoint. So common and oft-argued, in fact, that I’d never felt terribly interested in discussing it on here before. But thanks to that conversation, I ended up arriving at this one point from the complete opposite side. It felt exactly like the difference between arriving in China by plane, and arriving in China through a tunnel you started digging in your own backyard.

(*For context and background information, before continuing, I strongly recommend you first click here and read the original discussion):

In the very wide-ranging, thought-provoking, and possibly inflammatory conversation we’ve all been sharing in, several points have been brought up in direct reference to capoeira, such as cultural appropriation, changing or ditching tradition and bringing in your own values, and focusing on what you like and distilling out the rest.

Now, what I realized—is it just me, or does that describe exactly what happened in the development of capoeira regional?

If Greg Downey’s Learning Capoeira is correct, and if I recall it correctly, he wrote that regional is faster, flashier, and more focused on kicks and acrobatics because that’s what the majority demographic of its practitioners were interested in. This demographic consisted of middle-to-upper-class, white students who urged or convinced Mestre Bimba to concentrate more on the martial and acrobatic aspects of capoeira in their learning, while simultaneously encouraging him away from the ritualistic and traditional aspects, out of disinterest. At the same time, these students possibly incorporated one or two things they had learned from previous martial art experience, as well.

So if you think about it, it really seems like capoeira regional was created precisely through cultural appropriation, infusion of own values, and discarding of under-valued aspects by “outsiders” to capoeira’s original community—but still with the help and cooperation of part of the community itself. Yet, it was because of precisely such changes that capoeira had its big explosion, paving the way for regional and thus opening up opportunities for angola’s revival later…paving the way for capoeira, period.

So, where does this leave us? With the conclusion that capoeira regional “is not capoeira”? Or is that an example of change happening from within a community…yet with outsiders’ “help”, or “hybridization” (and if so, does that legitimize those concepts to at least a certain extent)? Or is it just a fact of life to accept—that things change, in and of themselves (especially considering, moreover, that we haven’t lost the “original” [if one takes angola as that] despite such change)?





Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 9: Contra-Mestra Cristina

3 03 2008

Like with Mestra Suelly, I unfortunately wasn’t able to find very much biographical information on Contra-Mestra Cristina (unlike a lot of mestres or some regional mestras, angola mestras don’t seem very good at tooting their own horns ūüėõ ), but I will make up for it with something extra at the end!¬†

Contra-mestra Cristina of Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de PastinhaCristina Nascimento, or Contra-Mestra Cristina, first encountered capoeira in an unusual way: through a type of therapy she was undergoing called “Somatherapy”, part of which involved temporarily joining a capoeira angola class.¬† Soon enough, however, she realized that she didn’t need anything more than¬†the latter: “I finished the therapy and disligated myself completely from it, realizing it was in fact Capoeira which brought the profound transformation I was looking for in my life.”

Her first class took place in Rio de Janiero, in 1993 when she was 28 years old.¬† The future contra-mestra trained under GCAP’s Mestre Neco, then became a student of Mestre Man√Ķel the next year, whose oldest student she remains to this day.¬† Cristina helped Mestre Man√Ķel¬†in the founding of¬†Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de Pastinha (GCAYP), and in 2003 she received her contra-mestra’s corda.¬† Today, she teaches children and runs the Rio de Janiero branch of GCAYP.

Now, here it is: an in-depth interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina, from Chamada de Mandinga in 1999.¬† I hesitated about putting it up at first, because a large part of the second half made me feel the same way I feel when popular female celebrities give feminism a bad name and take us back a few decades (you’ll see), and some parts seem to focus more on Mestre Man√Ķel than on Contra-Mestra Cristina, but ultimately still wanted the interview to be available to you guys.¬† Click on the link to read it!
Interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina [pdf]

Sources:
http://icameheretoplay.blogspot.com/2008/01/treinel-andrea-fica-oakland.html
http://www.chamadademandinga.de/04frauentreffen/04_info/bio_en.htm
http://www.chamadademandinga.de/07gutetexte/pdf/Interview_Cristina_Ypiranga_Rio_Eng.pdf

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Videos: Mestra Paulinha

29 02 2008

A while ago I wrote about Mestra Paulinha, co-founder and sociologist of Grupo Nzinga, but somehow left out videos of her playing.  The following angola videos feature her, and thank you to Steven for the links!

This is a really old video of Mestra Paulinha playing¬†Jo√£o Pequeno!¬† If you don’t want to wait through the introductory music, the actual playing starts at about 1:50.

This next video takes place in Costa Rica, with Mestra Paulinha playing capoeira in a roda with a FICA student.

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Videos: Contra-Mestra Susy (Grupo Vadiac√£o, Capoeira Angola)

14 01 2008

There were too many to choose from!¬† I’ll put two up here, and they’re a little lengthy, but worth it.¬†

This first one¬†is Contra-Mestra Susy playing several of her students, and you can just feel the fun she’s having playing them, through the video.¬† (And props to the kid for his macaco, hehe.)¬† There are also some really interesting parts where you can almost (almost) forgive those people who mistake capoeira for¬†[purely] a dance. ūüėõ¬† Contra-Mestra Susy is the one in all white.



This second one has Contra-Mestra Susy playing someone more her level, and again,¬†they are obviously having fun¬†(another difference that’s starting to come up more between angola and regional to me; angola games seem to have a lot more playfulness at…well, play…than the average regional game).¬† Watch for a really cool¬†section near the end of the first half,¬†where it looks like they’re playing at intense regional speed, but with clearly angola movements.



And for those who still haven’t had enough, here’s a link to more!
http://youtube.com/results?search_query=capoeira+angola+susy+vadiacao&search=Search

(Source: http://www.capoeira-connection.com/main/content/view/156/78)

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Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 6: Mestra Paulinha

7 01 2008

Something interesting I noticed while researching Mestra Paulinha and Mestra Janja is that it was a lot easier to find information about recent or current things they had done/were doing, than it was to find things in the past that they had done (like a plain old biography!).¬† I found this really intriguing because¬†normally, for capoeira mestres/mestras, all you can find is their stock biography, plastered word-for-word all over the capoerista’s World Wide Web.¬† Furthermore, most of the information I did find was about projects or events they had done or were part of, rather than¬†accounts of¬†their capoeirista journeys leading up to them becoming¬†mestras and having their own group.¬†

I suspect this is connected to my last post about how capoeira (angola), at least for Mestras Paulinha and Janja, is inherently about bringing about change, and to say the least, they do more than just talk about how it is and actually show how it is.  I really admire how they have found a way to seamlessly merge career, academics, capoeira, and working for change all into one!

Mestra Paulinha of Grupo Nzinga CapoeiraMestra Paulinha, like Mestra Janja, is a veritable force to be reckoned with in the fields of social issues, academia, and (of course) capoeira. Last year marked her 25th in capoeira angola, and in that time she: earned a master’s and doctorate degree in Sociology (from the University of Bahia and University of S√£o Paulo, respectively); became a distinguished professor at the University of Bahia; gave lectures on various topics in various settings; published scholarly articles; and worked with Mestra Janja to focus attention on (anti-)racism, youth, higher education, identity, black culture, and women in capoeira.

Mestra Paulinha began training capoeira near the start of the 1980s, in GCAP (Grupo Capoeira Angola de Pelourinho), also with Mestres Moraes, Jo√£o Grande, and Cobra Mansa. She became a contra-mestra in 1990 and moved to S√£o Paulo in 1998, where she became a coordinator of INCAB (Instituto Nzinga de Estudos da Capoeira Angola) along with Mestra Janja and Mestre Poloca. In 2002, Mestra Paulinha moved to Salvador, and leads a core group of Grupo Nzinga Capoeira there. She is the grupo’s designated sociologist, and has maintained constant dialogue with other capoeira angola groups in order to further INCAB’s goals.

Editor’s note: INCAB is not, as was implied in Mestra Janja’s write-up, the same as Grupo Nzinga Capoeira. INCAB is a larger, umbrella organization that encompasses several smaller associations, such as Grupo Nzinga Capoeira and the Nzinga Berimbau Orchestra.

Sources:
http://ficadc.blogspot.com/2007/08/beyond-roda-both-ms-paulinha-and-janja.html
http://buscatextual.cnpq.br/buscatextual/visualizacv.jsp?id=K4785350J1 (with Google translation)
http://www.chamadademandinga.de/04frauentreffen/04_info/bio_pt.htm (with Google translation)

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Video: Grupo Nzinga and Mestra Janja

3 01 2008

Following yesterday’s post, this is a great video from Grupo Nzinga, and for me it was a fascinating glimpse into the world of capoeira angola, which I’d never really fully realized before was so apart and different from the world of capoeira regional.¬† It was really interesting doing the research on Mestra Janja yesterday as well, and I definitely hope to learn more about capoeira angola as this goes on.¬† Make sure you don’t miss the footage of Mestra Janja conducting the Nzinga Berimbau Orchestra in the last part!

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Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 5: Mestra Janja

3 01 2008

I almost made a huge oversight in this series–so far all of the mestras or¬†contra-mestras¬†featured have been players of capoeira¬†regional, but of course there are angoleira mestras as well, and they are amazing!¬†¬†Apologies to any angola capoeiristas¬†who read this blog, and much thanks to Shayna McHugh of¬†Capoeira Connection and Bahia-Capoeira Blog for¬†bringing¬†several angola mestras¬†to my attention!¬†

Today I want to tell you about Mestra Janja, who has done/is doing¬†so much inside and outside of capoeira that I hardly knew what to talk about first.¬† And she’s not the only one, so please look out for following posts in this ongoing series!


Mestra JanjaMestra Janja, or Rosang√™la de Ara√ļjo Costa, is a well-known and much esteemed mestra in the world of capoeira angola. A former student of renowned Mestres Jo√£o Grande, Moraes, and Cobra Mansa, she began training in Salvador during the early 80s. In 1995, Mestra Janja founded the Instituto Nzinga de Estudos da Capoeira Angola e Tradi√ß√Ķes Educativas Banto (Grupo Nzinga de Capoeira Angola), along with Mestra Paulinha and Mestre Poloca. Instituto Nzinga, an NGO based in S√£o Paulo and named after a 16th century African queen, works towards an anti-racism and anti-sexism mission statement beyond the preservation of capoeira angola and its traditions.

Mestra Janja plays a major role in social issues related to capoeira. She has coordinated projects such as affirmative action for black students’ entrance into university, and leads the Network of Women Angoleira (RAM). In addition, Mestra Janja has helped to organize events such as last year’s VI Congresso Badau√™ of Women Capoeiristas, for which she also taught workshops and organized an international conference in Atlanta, USA. Last year, celebrations were held in Salvador to commemorate Mestra Janja’s 25th year in capoeira angola.

Beyond her superlative capoeira skills and extensive social work, Mestra Janja is known for being a top scholar in¬†the field. She completed a master’s and doctorate’s degree in Capoeira Angola at the Federal University of S√£o Paulo, and graduated from the Federal University of Bahia with a degree in History. A university professor and published scholar, Mestra Janja is Grupo Nzinga’s historian and co-publisher of Real D’Angola magazine. She also conducts the Nzinga Berimbau Orchestra, which performs pieces that create links between capoeira and other types of Afro-Brazilian music, such as jongo, tambo-de-crioula, and bumba-meu-boi.


Sources:
http://www.capoeira4all.org/mestres/index.php?id=1604
http://ficadc.blogspot.com/search/label/Mestre%20Janja
http://ficadc.blogspot.com/2007/08/beyond-roda-both-ms-paulinha-and-janja.html
http://www.chamadademandinga.de/04frauentreffen/04_info/bio_pt.htm (with Google translation)
http://www.dicadeteatro.com.br/feafro2.htm (with Google translation)
http://www.auniao.pb.gov.br/v2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5798&Itemid=35 (with Google translation)
http://www.joaopessoa.pb.gov.br/noticias/?n=5660 (with Google translation)


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