Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian folguedo (cultural manifestation), a martial art set to music that involves the exchange of symbolic and non-symbolic attack and defensive moves in a game between two capoeiristas. The game of capoeira has for the most part been the domain of men, with women’s involvement in capoeira limited by cultural norms of the given time in Brazilian history.
There have always been women in capoeira. I remember one old master, Mestre Marinheiro, telling me that when he was young, more than 60 years ago, he would see some women, deemed a little more daring and courageous than the “average” girls, tie up their skirts and join the capoeira roda (circle) to play. Indeed, even today, when we are children, it is very normal for both boys and girls to engage in all sorts of games independent of sex. Our world today is increasingly androgynous in all spaces, or at least it seems to be what we strive for, for better or worse. This has meant, just like in all sports, arts, and martial arts out there, women have been gaining space in activities that were once deemed exclusively as male. There was recently a FICA women in capoeira conference in Oakland, which hosted many women in capoeira including Contra Mestra Alcione from Grupo Angola Dobrada.
On Sunday in Toronto, Muhtadi’s International Drumming festival is taking place, and this year the festival theme is the “celebration of women in rhythm.” As part of these celebrations there will be a women’s roda at 2:30pm by the Archie Allen stage in Queen’s Park North. There will be representatives of the three main styles of capoeira found in Toronto, Capoeira Angola, Regional and Contemporanea. Women and girls from Semente de Jogo de Angola, Filhos de Bimba, Capoeira Camará, Axé Capoeria, União da Capoeira and Capoeira Malês will all be represented.
In honour of this women’s roda in Toronto I’ve compiled some websites/blogs that speak about women in capoeira and some videos on Youtube of prominent women capoeiras.
Women in capoeira by capoeira connection.
Now, here are some videos of some women in capoeira, most of these women play the Angola style of capoeira. Special thanks to Mandingueira.com, the source (in a curative way) of most of these vids.
Mestra Paulinha. She is an old school female capoeira. This is a really old video of Mestra Paulinha playing João Pequeno! If you don’t want to wait through the introductory music, the actual playing starts at about 1:50.
This next video takes place in Costa Rica, with Mestra Paulinha playing capoeira in a roda with a FICA student. Please turn down the music as some Costa Rican kid is singing so badly it hurts the ears.
Alcione is a Contra Mestra with the group Angola Dobrada, and has been training for a long time under Mestre Rogerio and Mestre Indio. She is also a prominent musician and a friend of mine.
Good vibes in this game.
Of course there is the body of work of Mestra Janja. From Mandingueira.com: Mestra Janja, or Rosangêla de Araújo Costa, is a well-known and much esteemed mestra in the world of capoeira angola. A former student of renowned Mestres João Grande, Moraes, and Cobra Mansa, she began training in Salvador during the early 80s. In 1995, Mestra Janja founded the Instituto Nzinga de Estudos da Capoeira Angola e Tradições Educativas Banto (Grupo Nzinga de Capoeira Angola), along with Mestra Paulinha and Mestre Poloca. Instituto Nzinga, an NGO based in São Paulo and named after a 16th century African queen, works towards an anti-racism and anti-sexism mission statement beyond the preservation of capoeira angola and its traditions.
This video shows the work of Mestra Janja.