Why “Sexist Capoeirista” is an Oxymoron

28 05 2008

Or: Why Sexist Capoeira Teachers Should Not Be Promoted

Capoeira is

A short while ago, my friend and I had a conversation about capoeira teachers who are sexist, who treat their female students as inferior to male students of the same level (and below…so to male students in general). One of the things that struck me about the conversation was when I heard that other (male) students and teachers had excused a contra-mestre’s behaviour by saying he just “didn’t know how to act” (being new from Brazil and all, since, you know, obviously treating students equally takes special skill and talent there compared to all other parts of the world). [On the off-chance that someone read that as being really offendingly politically incorrect, please note the dripping sarcasm!]

My friend’s (and my) response to that: How can you be a contra-mestre and “not know how to act” when it comes to teaching? Even leaving aside if you’re naturally inclined to be sexist, or genuinely hold sexist views, you’d think somewhere along the way you would’ve learned what’s acceptable and what’s not, especially in such a position of responsibility (and power). (Not that I think pretending to be not-sexist is great, but if that’s what it takes, then better than nothing.)

This is a perfect example of what Faisca mentioned in his post on teaching capoeira: “15 years does not [necessarily] a good instructor make.” However, let’s take this a little bit further:

Forget good instructors. Does 15 years a good contra-mestre make? Does 30 years a good mestre make?

To be a qualified teacher, one should know what it means to teach, and what teaching is about. More importantly, they should know what their subject is about, and know it through and through.

Being deemed and respected as a mestr(a/e), contra-mestr(a/e), or any of the nearby levels implies that you have what verges on a deep, profound knowledge of capoeira, and have at least a better than average notion of what capoeira is all about.

Well, what is the one thing that capoeira is MOST touted for being all about, by beginners and advanced capoeiristas, old guard and avant-garde alike?

Universality. All-inclusiveness. “For men, women, and children.” (-Mestre Pastinha, in case anyone forgot)

In that case, wouldn’t that mean that a capoeirista who is sexist (or racist, or in fact discriminatory in any rights-violating way), and lets it show in the capoeira environment, lacks true understanding of one of the most basic, fundamental concepts of capoeira?

And thus is not prepared to be granted the recognition and responsibility that comes with being deemed a “full”/”good”/”advanced”/”true” capoeirista in the way that today’s capoeira systems do?

I mean, think about it. Beginner and novice capoeiristas are expected to be well-rounded in terms of the “physical” aspects of capoeira in order to be promoted; they need to know both movements and music. Even if they have great floreios and great game, they won’t go anywhere if they can’t hold a berimbau or sing any songs.

As you progress in capoeira, this required all-roundedness expands to include the metaphysical—that is, capoeira philosophy. Well, a basic part of the philosophy of capoeira is that it’s for everyone: girls as well as boys, women as well as men. So, wouldn’t promoting a supposedly philosophically advanced capoeirista who doesn’t understand that concept be akin to promoting an esquiva-challenged beginner capoeirista to novice level?

Of course, none of that applies if a certain mestre or contra-mestre or so on really believes that capoeira is not for everyone, and that “true” capoeira philosophically does mean Brazilian Males Only.

But otherwise…just saying. If capoeira is truly universal, as we all love to say it is, then please hang up your bigotry, or abada. Because a sexist capoeirista is, arguably, no capoeirista at all.

Picture source:
http://www.casafree.com/modules/xcgal/displayimage.php?pid=2555





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: 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 7: Contra-Mestra Susy

12 01 2008

I’m starting to see an interesting pattern emerge from¬†researching all these¬†female mestres and contra-mestres.¬† Very¬†few of them seem to¬†have based their lives on¬†capoeira alone, as it appears with many males mestres, but have expanded¬†and merged it¬†with other major aspects of their lives or livelihoods as well.¬†¬†Mestra Edna Lima took the physical, sports science aspect of capoeira regional and turned it into fitness or physical education programs.¬† Mestras Janja and Paulinha focused on the sociological aspect of capoeira angola and through that, publish examining articles while working for change and progress in¬†related social issues.¬† Now, we have Contra-Mestra Susy, whose life and career highlights the potential of capoeira’s dance aspect.

Contra-mestra Susy of Grupo Vadiacao and Academica JangadaContra-Mestra Susy became the first European female in capoeira angola to earn her rank’s belt, in 1992, and she puts the “dance” in the dance-fight-game. In addition to nineteen years of capoeira, sixteen of which were¬†with Berlin’s Mestre Rosalvo (the first angoleiro to arrive in Europe), she studies and practices breakdancing as well as Afro-Brazilian dances associated with capoeira. Contra-Mestra Susy, or Susanne Oesterreicher, also performed in the dance piece Grupo Oito by Ricardo de Paula, with whom she has been working since 2005, and who choreographed her debut solo performance, “Identity”.¬† Ricardo de Paula is known for his work in attempting to combine contemporary dance and “contact improvisation”, inspired by capoeira.

Contra-Mestra Susy organized the First International Capoeira Angola Convention in Europe, in 1993, followed by a series of international meetings¬†that hosted guests such as Mestres Jo√£o Grande, Jo√£o Pequeno, Cobra Mansa, and Ciro.¬†¬†She then founded the Academia Jangada with Mestre Rosalvo in 1997, Europe’s first capoeira angola academy, for which¬†she¬†coordinated the First International Convention for Afro-Brazilian Dance in 1998.

In 1999, Contra-Mestra Susy founded Grupo Vadia√ß√£o, and since then has also been teaching the children’s capoeira group in Academia Jangada. She now holds workshops throughout Europe, Brazil, and the United States, where she attended the Fourth International Women’s Conference at the invitation of Mestre Cobra Mansa, in Seattle, 2002.

Sources:
http://www.chamadademandinga.de/04frauentreffen/04_info/bio_en.htm
http://www.jangada.com/index.php?id=18,0,0,1,0,0
http://ficadc.blogspot.com/2007/07/10th-anniversary-of-academia-jangada.html
http://www.capoeira-connection.com/main/content/view/156/78/

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