Rediscovering the African roots of Brazil’s martial art capoeira

An older form of the Brazilian dance-like martial art has been forgotten by many.

Brazil is well known as the home of the dance-like martial art capoeira, but its roots in fact lie across the Atlantic. In Angola, one man is trying to resurrect an older style to help people reconnect with their heritage, writes Marcia Veiga.

Short presentational grey line

Three times a week, in the late afternoon heat Lucio Ngungi gets buzzed into a bright coral compound in Angola’s capital, Luanda.

He follows the footpath to the small basketball court, which, as the sun starts to go down, echoes to the sound of clapping, singing and drumming, led by musicians.

Encircling them, protectively, students, wearing yellow T-shirts that display traditional masks are eagerly waiting to step into the middle in pairs.

In synchronicity, they begin swinging low left to right, in a move known as the Ginga.

Among them, almost trance-like, is Ngungi, the leader, lost in the chant: “There is no more or less, there is just different knowledge.”

This is Capoeira Angola, a version of the martial art that is rarely practised either in Brazil or Angola itself.

But its name speaks to the origins of the art that reaches back centuries – before people were enslaved and transported from the southern African coast to South America.

t was developed in what is now Brazil using rhythms and call-and-response singing found in the African traditions. The inclusion of instruments was crucial for distracting onlookers.

African influence downplayed

Capoeira Angola has a ritualistic feel and the movements are predominantly low to the ground, with the focus on precision. This is why the music is slower than in the dominant version, known as Regional.

The difference between Capoeira Angola and Capoeira Regional is subtle, but Capoeira Angola includes more instruments and its practitioners feel it is more spiritual.

Ngungi’s mission is to make this version more popular again.[…]

Continue reading: Rediscovering the African roots of Brazil’s martial art capoeira

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