Essay on Capoiera

This essay has a total of 2548 words and 17 pages.

Capoiera


Peter Newell

11-10-99

Period 1

Capoeira Essay

(Informative)













CAPOEIRA







Origin: Angola and Brazil





History:



Capoeira is the common name for the group of African martial arts that came out of west
Africa and were modified and mixed in Brazil. These original styles included weapons,
grappling and striking as well as animal forms that became incorporated into different
components and sub styles of the art.




In 1500's the Portuguese, led by explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral, arrived in Brazil. One of
the first measures taken by the new arrivals was the conquering of the local population,
the Brazilian Indians, in order to allow the Portuguese slave labor (for sugarcane and
cotton). The experience with the Indians was a failure. The Indians quickly died in
captivity or fled to their nearby homes. The Portuguese then began to import slave labor
from Africa. On the other side of the Atlantic, free men and women were captured, loaded
onto slave ships and sent on nightmare voyages that would end in bondage.




The Africans first arrived by the hundreds and later by the thousands (approximately four
million in total).Three major African groups contributed in large numbers to the slave
population in Brazil, the Sudanese group, composed largely of Yoruba and Dahomean peoples,
the Mohammedanized Guinea-Sudanese groups of Malesian and Hausa peoples, and the "Bantu"
groups (among them Kongos, Kimbundas, and Kasanjes) from Angola, Congo and Mozambique.




The Bantu groups are believed to have been the foundation for the birth of capoeira. They
brought with them their culture; a culture that was not stored in books and museums but in
the body, mind, heart and soul. A culture that was transmitted from father to son,
throughout generations. There was candomble', a religion; the berimbau, a musical
instrument; vatapa, a food; and many other things.




The Dutch controlled parts of the northeast between 1624 and 1654. Slaves took steps
towards reconquest of their freedom when the Dutch fought against the Portuguese colony,
invading towns and plantations along the northeastern coast, concentrating on Recife and
Salvador. With each Dutch invasion, the security of the plantations and towns were
weakened. The slaves, taking advantage of the opportunities, fled into the forests in
search of places in which to hide and survive. Many, after escaping, founded independent
villages called quilombos.




The quilombos were very important to evolution of capoeira. There were at least ten major
quilombos with economic and commercial relationships with neighboring cities. The quilombo
dos Palmraes lasted sixty-seven years in the interior of the state of Alagoas, fighting
off almost all expeditions sent to extinguish it. Because of the consistency and type of
threat present, capoeira developed as a fight in the quilombos. The birth of capoeira as a
fighting style was created in the slaves' quarters and might not have developed further if
left only to that environment.




Starting around 1814, capoeira and other forms of African cultural expression suffered
were prohibited in some places by the slave masters and overseers. Up until that date,
forms of African cultural expression were permitted and sometimes even encouraged, not
only as safety against internal pressures created by slavery but also to bring out the
differences between various African groups, in a spirit of "divide and conquer". But with
the arrival in Brazil in 1808 of the Portuguese king Dom Joao VI and his court, who were
fleeing Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Portugal, things changed. The newcomers
understood the necessity of destroying a people's culture in order to dominate them, and
capoeira began to be persecuted in a process, which would end with its being outlawed in
1892.




Why was capoeira suppressed? There were many motives. First of all it gave Africans a
sense of nationality. It also developed self-confidence in individual capoeira
practitioners. Capoeira created small, cohesive groups. It also created dangerous and
agile fighters. Sometimes the slaves would injure themselves during the capoeira, which
was not desirable from an economical point of view. The masters and overseers were
probably not as conscious as the king and his intellectuals of his court of all of these
motives, but even still, they knew something didn't seem right.




There are many other theories to explain the origins of capoeira. According to one well
known theory, capoeira was a fight that was disguised as a dance so that it could be
practiced without knowledge of the white slave owners. This seems unlikely because when
African culture began to be repressed, other forms of African dancing suffered prohibition
along with capoeira, so there would be no sense in disguising capoeira as a dance.




Another theory says that the Mucupes in the South of Angola had an initiation ritual
(efundula) for when girls became woman, on which occasion the young warriors engaged in
the N'golo, or "dance of the zebras," a warrior's fight-dance. According to this theory,
the N'golo was capoeira itself. This theory was presented by Camara Cascudo , but one year
later Waldeloir Rego warned that this "strange theory" should be looked upon with reserve
until it was properly proven (something that never happened). If the N'Golo did exist, it
would seem that it was one of several dances that contributed to the creation of early
capoeira.




Other theories mix Zumbi, the legendary leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares with the
origins of capoeira, without any reliable information on it.




All of these theories are important when trying to understand the myth that surrounds
capoeira, but they cannot be accepted as historical fact according to the data and
information that we presently have. Maybe with further research, the theory that capoeira
as a mix of various African dances and fights occurred in Brazil, mostly in the 19th
century, will also be outdated in future years.




With the signing of the Golden Law in 1888, which abolished slavery, the newly freed
slaves did not find a place for themselves within the existing society. The capoeirista
(practitioner of capoeira), with his fighting skills, self-confidence and individuality,
quickly descended into criminality and capoeira along with him. In Rio de Janiero, where
capoeira had developed exclusively as a form of fighting, criminal gangs were created that
terrorized the population. Soon thereafter, during the transition from the Brazilian
Empire to the Brazilian republic in 1890, these gangs were used by both monarchists and
republicans to exert pressure on and break up the rallies of their adversaries. The club,
the dagger and the switchblade were used to complement the damage done by various capoeira
moves.




Continues for 9 more pages >>




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