Capoeira Angola

The History

Capoeira Angola is an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial art, music and dance. Recognized a world Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO in 2014.  For promoting worldwide mutual respect and social cohesion.

The history of Capoeira Angola started in the 16th century, at a time when Brazil was a colony of Portugal and the African slave labour force was largely utilised in Brazil, especially in the agricultural production of sugar in the North-East. Many of these slaves came from the region of Angola, also a Portuguese colony. In Africa, the Angolans had many dances (eg: the N’golo, the Bassula, the Cabangula and the Umudinhu) which mixed with each other in Brazil, this became the origin of Capoeira (the game of Angola), which transferred to urban zones and became Capoeira Angola, a martial art disguised as a dance. It was an important instrument of cultural and physical resistance for the Brazilian slaves.

The Word Capoeira

The word Capoeira is of Tupi Guarani origin (a Brazilian indigenous language) and refers to the ground where wild grass was cut in preparation for the next planting season. This was also the place where black people would meet to practise N’Golo (a ritual), turning their souls, spirits and bodies into instruments of freedom to rise up against the oppression of the slavery system, that so ruthlessly controlled them.

The Players

A Capoeirista Angoleiro seeks to combine his movements with the movements of his comrade, aiming to connect their game as one.

It’s easy to see that the movements of the players are inspired by the movements of wild animals, offering them a great freedom and variety of movements in order to respond to the different demands of the game. These develop and unfold in as many diverse ways as a story can be told. The capoeirista demonstrates his superiority in the space of the Roda, by confusing the other player with the threatened danger and complexity of his movements.

Capoeira Angola is a game of strategy where the fighters (comrades) play within the space of the Roda (the circle that is formed when a group comes together to perform the ritual). This means tuning their game in accordance with the rhythm of the music played by the bateria (orchestra) and expressing the feeling and meaning of the verses that are being sung by the lead singer and the chorus in their game.

Wit, self-confidence, loyalty, humility, and elegance are some of the embodied characteristics that ‘Capoeirista Angoleiro’ has inherited from the old practitioners of N’Golo. To be a capoeirista demands perfect expertise and a command of the culture, the traditions of the game, the ‘toques’ of the instruments and the songs.

The Game

The movements of Capoeira Angola are commanded by the music and singing. It is a submission of force to rhythm, of violence to melody, a marriage of antagonisms. In Capoeira, the contenders are not adversaries, they are ‘camaradas’ or comrades; they don’t fight, they pretend to fight. They expertly seek to convey an artistic portrayal of the combat; and more important than their spirit of competition is their surrender to the spirit of beauty within them. A capoeirista is an artist and an athlete, a player and a poet.