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CAPOEIRA HISTORY

The Formation of Capoeira Identity Throughout the Ages

  by Andrew C Eadie, Kings College London, 2003



Introduction

In any historically based study of capoeira the point of departure must be an explanation of the most popular theories of capoeira lore. The question of whether these are or can be proved to be true is deeply relevant to an understanding of the way such theories have come to be used in capoeira politics. Viera and Assuncão in their article, Mitos, controversias e fatos: construindo a história da capoeira, state, “Os mitos (…) permitem a articulacão das posicoes dos grupos dentro da mundo da capoeira como tambem dentro da sociedade mais abrangente”. Almir das Areis in his book, O que é Capoeia (which offers neither references nor bibliography) places capoeira in three distinct phases of development: 1. The first phase is capoeira in its genesis a rudimentary dance, hiding within it the means of personal attack and defence, practised in the plantation senzalas (slave quarters) and used to defend the quilombos (fugitive slave villages); capoeira as a means of escape hidden within a popular diversion. 2. The second phase is the nineteenth century urban scenario and the repression of all manifestations of African-Brazilian/slave culture; capoeira as a criminal activity. We find capoeira in its last phase today, after its elevation to a national pastime and celebration as an emblem of Brazilian culture; capoeira as a national and international sport. The following text will analyse capoeira's changing relevance to the outside world - how its practical uses and membership criterion varied within those three phases, the effect they had on each other and their relevance to the capoeira that is played today.

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