“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 →
So far I have been approaching Capoeira traditions and philosophy, and criticizing the ulterior motives underpinning traditionalism (not traditions).
In this post I would like to share two important statements in video from two renowned Mestres supporting my line of thoughts so far. The first statement was taken from the documentary movie Capoeiragem na Bahia (IRDEB/TVE, 2000) and features Mestre Acordeon discussing traditions and changes in Capoeira over time. In the second one you will see Mestre Cláudio Danadinho addressing Capoeira’s inner principles in the institutional movie Volta Por Cima – Capoeira, Educação e Cultura.
I sincerely hope that these video clips help your understanding of both the dangers of traditionalism and the importance of seeking philosophical concepts as wise means supporting your quest for truthful knowledge in the Art-form.
The interesting thing about these two little clips is that they both contain substantial knowledge and wisdom in how to confront not only tensions within Capoeira, but also within our societies in general. Despite addressing different issues they complement each other in how they mention present day tensions in Capoeira, as well as the role of our Art-form within a globalized world.
First, illustrating the risks we all run in adopting a radical traditionalist approach, Mestre Acordeon draws attention to a particular discourse supporting a search for a Capoeira based upon an idealized past. As I mentioned in Capoeira – The Brazilian People’s Wisdom the risk with the above mentioned discourse is that most of the time its real interests are covert, and often strongly diverge from an honest endeavour to preserve knowledge and wisdom in the form of cultural practices (traditions).
Another striking point of his statement is over matters of ‘judgements of values in Capoeira, an issue that I am deeply concerned with as it can trigger absurd comparisons and Capoeira. As I see it, this phenomenon is entangled with matters of cultural and geographical authenticity, and in fact, as Mestre Acordeon states, it causes Brazilian and non-Brazilian capoeiristas to attempt to become ‘more traditional’ as if such thing was possible. Furthermore, it supports the belief that this quantification of tradition will bring cultural authenticity. Lets have a look at the first clip.
Does the way Mestre Acordeon confront the problems we face in Capoeira help you to re-access your believes, identities, and attitudes as a capoeirista. For me, it certainly did: it took long years before I realised how to confront such issues and discovered that most traditions was not carved in rock. Above all, I figured out, from other Mestres’ teachings and my own experience as well, that one cannot fully grasp Capoeira if it attempts to do so with a western mind set; simply as a passive learner, a consumer. In this way, one can learn bits and pieces of Capoeira, acquire some knowledge (usually sold as ‘ancient traditions’), but the wisdom steaming from cultural systems, such as Capoeira,can not be bought.
When I began to understand these concepts, I headed down the path of learning more about Brazilian history and culture. I needed to know more about the cultural context from which such a beautiful and intriguing Art-form sprung. This quest rewarded me in many ways, but chiefly with knowledge regarding the origin of Brazilian people as a whole, and the understanding of Capoeira as a social and educational instrument.
Yet, there was no ‘universal truth’… A few very persuasive ‘mestres’, heads of different schools from both Capoeira Regional and Angola, claimed to have the authority to determine whether or not what most people were doing in Capoeira was authentic. This caused many schools to alter the way they expressed their Capoeira and to invest great sums every year in an attempt to ‘buy’ recognition from these “mestres” and/or to earn authenticity by means of becoming ‘more traditional’.
I enlarged my search and begun to seek for Capoeira Mestres outside the mainstream cliques of celebrities. Albeit, I found Mestres whose ideas and concerns were much more in tune with practitioners, scholars and philosophers bravely standing against the westernisation of Brazilian culture.
It is my belief, supported by the ideas of these scholars and Mestres, that throughout the early period of time in which a great deal of Brazilian culture and society was being formed, including Capoeira of course, it was developed under a peculiar situation of severe and specific constraints. Such a specific and harsh context, and how people dealt with it, generated purposeful and wise cultural practices – such as Capoeira; still as capable to enable its practitioners in our present day’s conflicts as it was when serving libertarian practices of the past. Mestre Cláudio Danadinho, one of the founders of the Senzala Capoeira Group in the 60’s and a renowned architectural scholar at the Brasília Federal University, is certainly one of these brave counterparts standing against the changes caused by the western ruling system. In the following clip he describes the origin of Capoeira as an outcome of intercultural interaction in opposition to the inhuman conditions of slavery.
Ps: Thanks a lot to Flamingo (CMA) who has been helping me to edit my texts and to Instrutor “Maguim” who has been editing these clips.
Capoeira – The Brazilian People’s Wisdom post received some interesting comments on the role of traditions, as well as the invention of traditions1. A few of our counterparts shared their experience regarding these issues and dropped me some questions.
I do not think anyone is in position to point out what is right or wrong in Capoeira, or what cultural practices we should adopt or vanish from the art. However, it is one of my main goals in writing 4 Capoeira Thoughts, to share with you a few of my insights from nearly 20 years of practice, a lot of my still remaining questions, and invite you to come along in my quest; hopefully, weaving our paths. Continue reading →