Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art/dance, was created in Brazil and developed by African slaves brought to Brazil during the Colonial period. These Africans developed capoeira which served as a form of cultural expression in opposition to the institution of slavery. Capoeira consists of an improvised dialogue of the body, which is underpinned by philosophical, physical, musical and cultural elements.

A Brief History

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Portugal shipped slaves into South America from Western Africa. Brazil was the largest contributor to slave migration with 42% of all slaves shipped across the Atlantic. The following peoples were the most commonly sold into Brazil: The Sudanese group, composed largely of Yorubaa and Dahomean people, the Islamised Guinea-Sudanese group of Malesian and Hausa people and the Bantu group(among them Kongos, Kimbundas and Kasanjes) from Angola, Congo and Mozambique.

There are engravings and writings that describe a now-lost fighting dance in Cuba that reminds us of Capoeira with two Bantu men moving to the yuka drums. It is called the baile del maní. Batuque and Maculele are other fight-dances closely connected to Capoeira.

These people brought their cultural traditions and religion with them to the New World. The homogenization of the African people under the oppression of slavery was the catalyst for Capoeira. Capoeira was developed by the slaves of Brazil as a way to resist their oppressors, secretly practice their art, transmit their culture, and lift their spirits. Some historians believe that the indigenous peoples of Brazil also played an important role in the development of Capoeira.

After slavery was abolished, the slaves moved to the cities of Brazil and with no employment to be found, many joined or formed criminal gangs. They continued to practice Capoeira, and it became associated with anti-government or criminal activities. As a result, Capoeira was outlawed in Brazil in 1892. The punishment for practicing it was extreme (practitioners would have the tendons on the backs of their feet cut), and the police were vicious in their attempt to stamp out the art. Capoeira continued to be practiced, but it moved further underground. Rodas were often held in areas with plenty of escape routes, and a special rhythm called cavalaria were added to the music to warn players that the police were coming.

To avoid being persecuted, Capoeira practitioners (capoeiristas) also gave themselves an apelido or nicknames, often more than one. This made it much harder for the police to discover their true identities. This tradition continues to this day. When a person is baptized into Capoeira at the batizado ceremony, they may be given their apelido.

Persecution of the art petered out eventually, and was entirely gone by 1918.

In 1937, Mestre Bimba was invited to demonstrate his art in front of president Getúlio Vargas. After this performance, he was given permission to open the first Capoeira school in Brazil. Since that time, Capoeira has been officially recognized as a national sport, and has spread around the world. Mestre Bimba's systematization and teaching of Capoeira made a tremendous contribution to the Capoeira community.

Together, Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha are generally seen as the fathers of modern Capoeira Regional and Capoeira Angola respectively.In 1942, Mestre Pastinha opened the first Capoeira Angola school, the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola, located in Bahia. He had his students wear black pants and yellow t-shirts, the same color of the "Ypiranga Futebol Clube," his favorite soccer team. Most Angola schools since then follow in this tradition, having their students wear yellow Capoeira t-shirts, although more recently each club has begun to adopt more personalised uniforms.

Source: Wikipedia

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