Capoeira, Salvador da Bahia
Capoeira is a unique Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, dance, music and acrobatics. But capoiera is much more; it is a ritual and a philosophy, a cultural tradition and a way of life.
It was invented by African slaves in Brazil over 450 years ago. The African slaves that came to Brazil brought with them their culture. Many practised other types of African martial arts in their mother land and those martial arts had an enormous influence on the development of capoeira. Although capoeira was outlawed in Brazil in 1890, it continued to be practiced, but it moved further underground. Capoeiristas (capoeira practitioners) also adopted apelidos nicknames to make it more difficult for police to discover their true identities. To this day, when a person is baptized into capoeira, they may be given an apelido. In 1920 capoeira was legalized in Brazil.
Capoeira is done in roda (circle). In the centre two players show their skills in what is called jogo de capoeira. The people forming the circle around those players sing, play instruments and clap hands. The most important and respected instrument in capoeira is the berimbau. The moves in capoeira are beautiful and spectacular. It combines strenght and grace with personal expression. Capoeira is becoming more and more popular around the globe.
In Salvador you can see groups practicing capoeira in the squares of Pelourinho and Barra, in front of Mercado Modelo and even on the beach. I'd like to mention that I was quite disappointed at capoeiristas in Pelourinho. They do it mostly for tourists. When you come closer to have a look, perhaps take a photo, they always ask for money. And if you don't give it to them, they become angry, start to complain and finally they stop practicing. But I really enjoyed capoeira in Barra. The practitioners were much more skilled and besides, they were nice and friendly people.
This was a martial arts form originated from Africa. They were prohibited by slave owners during the colonial times. The slaves thus practised them secretly in the forest. Later, to disguise this act of defiance, capoeira was morphed into a sort of acrobatic fight-dance.
The fight-dance is accompanied by clapping of hands and plucking of the berimbau musical instrument.
The fighter-dancers perform in a circle with fluid slowish (or very swift, depending on the type of capoeira) movements that will nearly hit the opponents. They do some playful somersault-like stunts on the ground, sweeping their feet across, kicking their legs upwards, etc...
During the slavery period the portuguese didn't want fights between the slaves, so the african created a new fight dance without touching themselves during the play.
The new fight take inspiration to an ancient Angola fight: Angola was the country that gives the most quantity of slaves to the portuguese and the roots of this country are very important for the culture of this big beautifull country. Slavery stopped in Brasil only in the second decade of 1900.
It is well known that the capoeira groups are performing their sport outside the lighthouse in Barra, and the photo proves that it is for everybody to learn. I watched this little group with big interest one morning. These disabled kids were having a great time together, and it was obvious that they were taken very seriously by the grownups who were their teachers.