Project Learning from Brazilian Culture: A Brief History, Profile and Guidelines

Erica, João Grande, Fafá and Joãonete

Erica, João Grande, Fafá and Joãonete. By Fabrício Ferreira

Very often I am asked “- What is ‘Volta Por Cima’?”. Most people must be thinking I have started a new group or brand. That is not the case. Mestre Suassuna’s work inspired many of my endeavours in Capoeira, including the development of the social project Learning From Brazilian Culture. However, this project’s design reflects much of my personal grasp of Capoeira, and is based on other Mestres’ teachings, scholars and artists as well. Hence, I needed to start an independent institution, and that is how the ‘Volta Por Cima – Capoeira, Education, and Culture’ begun. I chose this name for two reasons. First, because it is a movement that embodies the principles of an elegant and skilful Capoeira so present in Mestre Suassuna’s teachings. Second, because in Brazilian Portuguese the expression ‘dando [doing] a Volta Por Cima’ also means recovering one’s life after being through a very troublesome period. A perfect name for a project designed to promote social inclusion. Continue reading

Constructional Elements of our School’s Political and Pedagogic Project

Photo by André Santangelo

João Grande doing a Volta Por Cima by André Santangelo

This letter was first written on the 17th of September of 2007 in Brasília, a few months before my departure to New Zealand. Despite some achievements, I am still developing the project together with our school’s students. However, I believe it is time to share these thoughts with a larger number of students and friends. Hopefully this letter will inspire some of you to join the ongoing composition of our school’s political and pedagogic guidelines, or at least to share some thoughts with us.
______________________________________________________________________Constructional Elements of the Volta Por Cima Political Pedagogic Project
Folks, so far I have been guiding some actions of people involved in our Group, but chiefly I have been working alone. Despite Lagedo’s, Ely’s, Adélia’s and all ours instructors’ help, great changes and projects, so far, were implemented na raça (relying strictly on a great deal of determination). The fact that we’re now building our Political Pedagogic Project (PPP) means a lot to me and to the group. Like it’s said in the original text, a PPP is a collective action that guides ours school’s path. School that from now on, I hope, will be built by all.

In this sense, to put on paper (as explained in the PPP guidelines) means to materialize everyone’s commitment to what I built in approximately 10 years of complete dedication teaching Capoeira as we believe (it should be practiced). I’m stressing this out, because I think it’s important that everyone knows that this document/action will guide our Capoeira school in several countries where it already exists and in others it will come to be, influencing educators and students from different cultures.

Talk during the event Primeira Jogada, Sweden 06/2009

Talk during the event Primeira Jogada, Sweden 06/2009

Hence, I insist in noting that to us the practice of Capoeira is to reflect life according to the Arte-Mandinga – transcending its lessons to our everyday life. Is to compensate Capoeira for the opportunities we have to change people around the world; for the chance of looking after our physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions; and for the chance of deepening our wisdom in regards to Brazilian culture and history. In this way the relationship with a healthy Capoeira, be it teaching or simply practising it, becomes an exchange in which we look well after the instrument so that we can learn even more how we have to look after ourselves.

Instrutora Ingela at the Volta Por Cima Cultural Centre in Brasília

Instrutora Ingela at the Volta Por Cima Cultural Centre in Brasília

In reading and reflecting over these words, mind that ‘the school’ we’re discussing is OUR Capoeira group, our social club, OUR HOME of vadiação wherever we practice in the world. A Capoeira school must invite its students to see the world from another perspective – that of of reflection, of action and of a paradigm capable of re-structuring our practice towards a better life in Capoeira, and towards Capoeira as a better lenses to see the world.

 Domingueira Roda at the Social Project Learning from Brazilian Culture

Charangueiro and Costela saindo pro jogo, by André Santangelo. Domingueira Roda at the Social Project Learning from Brazilian Culture

Therefore, our identity must be that of the intercultural education’s perspective, of Capoeira as a tool, as means to a better positioning in relation to the world. However, embracing Capoeira as a mean, instead of an end, does not lessen our responsibility of completely mastering all its possibilities! In other words, as put by Paulo Freire “revolution in practical actions”! No scientism, no academism, no extreme rationalisation. The writing of this document call you to take responsibility of and to engage in a movement of reflection and action within the universe of Capoeira, but above all, calls you to become capoeiras who will set the example of our believes in all our INTERpersonal contacts; be it playing or interacting in other ways.

Professor Ferpa's Maculelê class in Västerås 2007

Professor Ferpa's Maculelê class in Västerås 2007

The [PPP] text asks us about “What dimensions of the human beings are we claiming to forge? What PRACTISES [not theories! Plainly, what example are we going to give with OUR Capoeira attitude]; what pedagogies are we proposing to accomplish this; Which methods and pedagogies need to be fostered within each educative space and time? How to construct day by day the educative environment of our school?” And also, “How to accomplish the collective and the individual pedagogic assessment?”.

Roda at the Volta Por Cima Cultural Centre in Brasília 2005

Contra-Mestre Eurico e Professor Ely. Roda at the Volta Por Cima Cultural Centre in Brasília 2005

Well, as you see, it’s necessary to bear in mind that we’ll write a PPP that will be also, and above everything, action! That will force us to present new ways of experience/teach/practice Capoeira. Throughout this period in which I have been teaching, my deepest worry is to awake what is best in each one of us via Capoeira, to afterwards, explicit that our relationship with Capoeira can be a new form of interaction with our differences in the world.

This is not easy! For what bearing this in mind, the method needs to be adaptable to each one who arrives seeking for Capoeira with one’s own expectations. Needs to adaptable to each country we arrive in offering our way to live/work with Capoeira. But this, by no means implies that our proposal/method needs to be empty of aims, so that it can be fulfilled by the expectations of those arriving.

CM Eurico, Mestra Suely, Mestre Acordeon and a group of Swedish and Finish students in Västerås, Sweden (06/2009).

CM Eurico, Mestra Suely, Mestre Acordeon and a group of Swedish and Finish students in Västerås, Sweden (06/2009).

On the contrary, our proposal is one of strong Capoeira identity. Is one of producing resourceful capoeiras, strong in the truthful philosophy of Capoeira – a libertarian instrument of a people. Characteristics that make our Capoeira a practise ever more involving and enthralling; that gives us a power even greater than the bulk of its components – the adaptability. Characteristic that allows us to practice an intercultural education.

My intention with this text is to pass to you the essence of what I have done, so that all of you can bear in mind these values meanwhile working with this document [the PPP]. It is worthy to remind you all that this document will guide ACTIONS towards people from different cultures and social conditions.

In the words of Mestre Decânio, “Your Capoeira is you! The limit of your Capoeira who draws is you!”. In this case, the limit of our Capoeira will be drawn by all of us.

Brothers Bruninho (4 years old) and Fabão, both doing Volta Por Cima

Brothers Bruninho (4 years old) and Fabão, both doing Volta Por Cima



Mestre Waldemar da Paixão

Barracão de M. Waldemar

“My name is Waldemar Rodrigues da Paixão, I was born in 1916, learnt Capoeira from Siri de Mangue, Canário Pardo, Calabi de Periperi… I took 4 years learning, in 40 I was teaching on the Pero Vaz [street from Salvador, Bahia]. Then I kept teaching, now I stopped, I only handicraft my berimbaus.”

(From Paixão, Waldemar da, & Silva, Washington Bruno da, Mestre Waldemar e Mestre Canjiquinha, disco; 1984.)


Waldemar da Paixão was probably the last Capoeira Mestre teaching informaly. Meanwhile Mestres like Bimba and Pastinha were teaching in academies, he insisted in teaching his apprentices in his roda in the famous ‘Barracão de Waldemar’ (a hut covered with straw), using informal methods. Continue reading