"The roots don't depend on the tree. The tree depends on the roots." / "As raizes não dependem da árvore. A árvore depende da raíz."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Reflections on Capoeira Africana

"The roots don't depend on the tree. The tree depends on the roots."

In several African traditions, people believe that some trees are sacred symbols that store ancestral and spiritual information. I always felt a strong connection with trees, even before knowing about this. I remember having a mango tree in the backyard of our house in Luanda, Angola. I loved to climb up there, sit on the strong branches, savor delicious mangoes, and enjoy the tranquility. Trees are still very special to me. Their perfect structure is so fascinating as every part is perfectly connected and designed to function harmoniously. While I think about the meaning of Capoeira Africana, the representation of a tree comes to mind. Capoeira Africana is the “African” spirit of Capoeira. Ideally, it represents the roots of Capoeira.

When I first started practicing Capoeira, I didn't know exactly why I was doing it. However, the music and movements activated something deep within, which I could not explain. After taking a few classes, I realized that I was falling in love with this enchanting art form. Seeing others playing and singing, and allowing myself to be part of the circle gave me a sense of harmony. My subconscious began to send fuzzy messages to my consciousness. Since I could not decipher the messages I became more curious and thirsty. I felt the urgency to move deeper and to dive into this ocean of divine and physical messages, which were forming in my consciousness.  Eventually, Capoeira Africana blessed me with answers to questions I had during my beginning days of Capoeira. 

Being aware of what Capoeira Africana represents allows me to have access to ancestral and spiritual information. It also helps me to stay connected to the roots of Capoeira - a transcendental experience, which comes alive only through awareness of this innate spirit of Capoeira. Capoeira Africana brings a “holistic” way of seeing, learning, and practicing Capoeira. It has several components such as physical, mental and spiritual, and the practitioner should be familiar with all of them in order to master the art form. Before I began to develop a Capoeira Africana mentality, and started to understand what it really meant to me and to Capoeira as a whole, in my view, "my" Capoeira was rootless. I experienced all parts of the "tree" except the roots, thinking that it was simply a historical statement. But as I gained a better understanding of this philosophy/spirit, it became part my Capoeira, my “jogo” (game), my training/practice, and even became a way of life.  

Coming to the U.S. opened up a new world in my life, in addition to the “African” world in me. I was born in Africa and Africa was born in me. Deep inside I know that I am in the U.S. to fulfill a higher purpose. Capoeira is a way I find that helps me understand and fulfill this yet unrealized purpose. Capoeira Africana helps me stay connected with my African roots.  It helps me realize why I was sent to the U.S. by my ancestors. Sometimes, I sense that I have been trapped between two worlds, but it helps me untangle myself and freely express who I really am. It also helps me see clearly the path back to the roots, and lets me encourage others to do the same. It connects me to other practitioners in a real way. 

To complete the cycle of the existence of Capoeira, we are expanding the art form back to its origin. Capoeira Africana, as a movement, signifies a mark of a new age in the world of Capoeira, and in the African world. Yes, we need to keep in mind that there were various influences that shaped Capoeira to be what it is today. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Native Americans in Brazil, various African cultures in Brazil, the slaves’ struggle for liberation, etc. contributed to the expansion of the "Ngolo Dance", today, Capoeira . Remembering its roots and origins is a crucial factor as without roots the tree does not exist. To experience and celebrate the spirit of its origins (Capoeira Africana) one should be aware of it. It is also important to trace a historic line from where it started, where it is, to see where it might go.

Capoeira Africana is a way of life, and a new identity/contribution for the “new Africa” and for a “new world”, and we love to share this philosophy with others. It is also a new way of seeing and practicing Capoeira. The latent spirit of Capoeira Africana resides in Capoeira.  

We published our blog about a year ago, and it has been a beautiful journey since then. We continue to invite those interested in joining the Capoeira Africana movement, and sharing their ideas. 

Viva Capoeira Africana!

Lucia Kudielela Fernades
Co-Founder of Capoeira Africana