The Centro de Capoeira São Salomão (CCSS) is a not-for-proft cultural entity created with the aim of keeping alive the traditions of Capoeira. CCSS teaches a series of interdisciplinary and Capoeira-related programs as an instrument for education, citizenship building and social inclusion. In this interview Mestre Mago shares with 4CapoeiraThoughts the history and achievements of his Centre’s programs as well as his views on Capoeira as an educational tool. In addition, Mestre Mago also shares his take, and difficulties teaching both Capoeira Angola and Regional.
Founded on 28 June 1997 in the neighbourhood of Pina (Recife) by Ricardo Dias de Sousa Pires (Mestre Mago) and his followers. The CCSS engages in activities that strengthen cultural belonging, a culture of peace, the access to physical exercise and leisure, as well as looking after your body and health through Capoeira. From this perspective, the initiatives by the CCSS have sought to create the right conditions for an educational encounter that aims at taking children and youngsters from the community of Bode and Pina out of their difficult conditions. To that end the project ‘Caxinguelês’ (Brazilian squirrels) was launched. The program now attends 40 youngsters and their families. These pupils receive daily lessons in partnership with three local schools in a system of an extended school day.
Within their daily schedule, pupils and their families work through pedagogical workshops (Capoeira, reading, writing, music, IT, instrument making and popular dances) and health care to promote education on self-care and disease prevention.
In 2008, CCSS made a quantum leap in the quality of its initiatives when it won the ‘Premio Ludicidade’ [Playfulness Award] – for organisations that help develop children – in the government grant folder ‘Pontinhos de Cultura’ (Little Points of Culture – for programs attending children). CCSS also won the ‘Pontos de Cultura’ prize (Points of Culture – for cultural programs in general). Both are initiatives of the Ministry of Culture to boost groups that are recognised as working with culture in a citizen-forming way in underprivileged areas. In light of that achievement it was possible for CCSS to realise the dream of extending some initiatives and launching others.
One of those other initiatives is the Cinema Club called Cine Mandinga, which takes place every second Wednesday of the month. On that day we show movies and documentaries to the community. Topics include local life and cultural issues. Most movies give priority to productions from the state of Pernambuco, hence enabling the presence of the filmmaker for dialogues.
To give continuity to CCSS’ social projects, they went on to create the ‘Digital Illusion Workshop’ for the participants in the Caxinguelês Project. They believe in the thought that the so-called digital culture goes beyond learning IT skills and gives youngsters a wider and necessary outlook on the IT world, providing them with instructions for an intelligent use of IT tools and preparing them for the work force.
1 – 4CT – I gathered that the program is an interdisciplinary initiative embracing school hours as well. How does that works? Did the school embraced all the São Salomão Centre’s activities in its curriculum?
Mestre Mago – The activities are coordinated autonomously by the project. The partnership with the school came out of meetings with the principals where we offered our project. These agreements are verbal only, but we have good communication and get a lot of respect from the principals. We also receive support with afternoon meals and school materials within the school’s means. Altogether, we still feel the need for more integration between the school and the project in terms of joint planning and mutual support of the children in the space of the other (i.e. the project accompanying the children at school and the school accompanying them in the project). We have a good relationship going for now, but we still need to grow and mature a lot.
2 – 4CT – How did you get motivated to work with Capoeira as tool in socio-educative programs?
Mestre Mago – The motivation came from my own life in Capoeira. To me, Capoeira has always been a great educational tool. And for me, who has been a Capoeirista since I was 12 years old, I know exactly about its revolutionary, liberating and transformational powers. With this certainty, I had the opportunity to work in a few government projects in this area. When we established our office in a socially vulnerable community, creating the Caxingueles project came naturally.
3 – 4CT – Can you talk about the impact Capoeira have in these students lives in terms of inclusion/exclusion e social emancipation?
Mestre Mago – The project is an educational space in which we increase the level of attention given to kids when compared with school and even families (3-4 coaches for 20 kids). This raises their self-esteem and establishes a relationship of complicity and trust, which is very useful for the development and achievement of the objectives. We are also a space for expressions and as such we stimulate to the maxim the realisation of their potential as well as their anguish, fears, problems etc…
To be honest, I don’t see limits; the limit virtually is the sky… I do see many difficulties. However, these difficulties will be faced individually by every child and every family as every relationship is unique and every child has a different story that is written every day and is absolutely unforeseeable.
For me, the major challenge is to keep the school in the project, because the project is intended for 11/12 years only. This is a long time, but if we can keep the child for this period then it is a 100% success. That is what our numbers have been showing up to now.
4 – 4CT – In which ways do you believe Capoeira contributes in the formal education as well as in the personal development processes?
Mestre Mago – After 13 years of action, we have some significant results for the community. Most distinctively these are the visible improvements in the children’s school performance. That result can be measured by the entry of some Caxingueles pupils into university, one of which in Physical education, another in Psychology and yet another in Music. And there is the story of one of these girls, Tenily Sales da Silva, known in Capoeira as Tequila, who joined the Caxingueles Project when she was 12. Ten years later she graduated in Capoeira and today she teaches Capoeira in public and private schools in Recife. She went through the test for a tertiary education in Physical Education and is gathering the last necessary points to graduate in the first or second semester of 2011.
The truth is that the experience in the project will step by step change the way in which these children relate to the world (school, family, community). Values will be reviewed, established or re-established, and normally this engagement tends to increase. With a view to those who have been through the project and are now adults leading their lives, we can observe that those who stayed in the project for a long time as pupils have now become teachers in the project. Of the 4 permanent classes we hold (Capoeira, music, popular culture and reading/writing), 3 are held by teachers who are ex-Caxingueles.
5 – 4CT – How does the project’s students interact with other groups and styles?
Mestre Mago – The permanent exchange with other Capoeira groups that happens in CCSS allows students to get to know and to and deal with other forms of interpreting and practicing our art.
6 – 4CT – Today the fundamentalist-like traditionalism in Capoeira is a growing trend. How do you address this in your programs? How do you see those groups and programs within Capoeira that work with both Capoeira Angola and Regional?
Mestre Mago – It is interesting that you are asking this, Eurico. I don’t know if you know this, but my work is founded on the very roots of Capoeira, as much as on Regional as on Angola. Our method consists of separating the aspects of these two forms of modern Capoeira without mixing them, and taking turns weekly to approach all the knowledge involved in Regional and Angola, respecting their traditions, methodologies, rituals, musicality, etc. I developed this methodology myself naturally and step by step after my first encounter with the old guard of the Capoeira Baiana in 1987. In other words, I have been navigating this minefield for 23 years. Obviously, for those initiated who don’t know me and have never seen our work from more closely, this may seem strange, pretencious and, as many say, impossible.
But along all these years we managed to gain the respect of important Mestres from both Capoeira lineages, who don’t just accept and respect me but also participate and collaborate in the development of our work. In a certain way, we are slowly dismantling a paradigm. Therefore I am careful enough to call myself neither Regional or Angoleiro, because here in Pernambuco and with the Mestres that I trained under and lived with, we never had that distinction. I learnt in the era of mixed and multiracial Capoeira, in which the aspects of traditional lineage were mixed.
So really, I am neither Regional nor Angoleiro, and neither are my students. We are Capoeiristas, but we understand that everything that happens in Capoeira nowadays comes from these to more traditional matrices. We value this knowledge, we study, research, recover and use this source with the idea to create a more versatile Capoeirista who is prepared to lead Capoeira in our time and age; who integrates other forms of understanding and expressing beyond the traditional matrices of this art.
So our goal is to see our students learn Capoeira that is rooted in the traditional knowledge of this art, but with an open mind towards the dialogue with all Capoeiristas and their forms of understanding Capoeira. It is an arduous task that requires a lot of sense of orientation and determination, as well as personality. This experience has been really good, I am feeling happy and have a sense of achievement. And I think so does my group, men, women, youngsters and children.
7 – 4CT – There are those who condemn internet as a leaning resource, but the fact is that it has became part of our everyday lives. How do you see the use of internet as a learning and organisatioanal resource? Can you talk about the advantages and drawbacks in its use?
Mestre Mago – In the project or in my work, the Internet is turning more and more into a reality. We are using it in everyday life and the tendency is that this use will increase exponentially, mainly because one of the workshops included [in the program's curriculum] last year was IT (digital culture). In this workshop, like in other areas, we strive to show a rational, critical and creative use of this knowledge and these tools.
What I think can be negative is excess, or the pretention that the real and lived will be substituted by the virtual. No internet or similar thing can replace the relationship between mestre and student, between the comrades in the group, or well, human relationships in general – with all their implications, contradictions and clashes that are so necessary for our development when we are thrown into this life. On the other hand, it isn’t necessary to discard the internet’s use completely. The big question, as so often in life, is to find the middle ground, the equilibrium.
For more information on São Salomão Capoeira Centre’s programs, please visit (in Portuguese) www.capoeirasaosalomao.com.br
Mestre Mago’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Translated by Canarinho and Eurico.
For more interviews with social Capoeira activists read:
- Project Learning from Brazilian Culture: A brief history, profile and guidelines;
- Constructional Elements of our School’s Politic Pedagogic Project;
- The new Era of Social Capoeira;
- Learning from Brazilian Culture – TV Clipping – Inclusion Show;
- Learning from Brazilian Culture – TV Clipping – RBI Notícias IV;
- Learning from Brazilian Culture – TV Clipping – RBI Notícias III;
- Learning from Brazilian Culture – TV Clipping – RBI Notícias II;
- Learning from Brazilian Culture – TV Clipping – RBI Notícias I;
- Capoeira: When to help others is no longer a choice but an obligation!;
- Beirut, os Sobreviventes e a Volta ao Mundo;
- Capoeira Sobreviventes and the NGO Volta ao Mundo rescue ‘street kids’ from ‘at risk’ situation in Lebanon;
- Capoeira Communities: setting an example towards a social take in Capoeira.