"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, May 28, 2012

Community & Ancestor Acknowledgement Pt. 1

By Taganyahu Gazaheng Swao

It has come to my overstanding through the last 10 years of my practicing Capoeira Angola this art form has a connection with our ancestry. We connect to our ancestry through Capoeira Angola because when one enters a space where Capoeira Angola is happening, especially a roda, everything that is modern ceases to have any relevance in this environment. What the participants are doing in this ritual could have taken place 100 to 1000 years ago, if not longer. The instruments themselves could have been made from any time period so naturally our ancestors could have participated in such a ritual.  Many mestres talk of this connection to our ancestors that we cultivate when we practice/play Capoeira Angola. Some even say that by calling on disincarnated capoeira masters that they are able to enter into our bodies and play through us. 

However what is the purpose of connecting to our ancestors in Capoeira Angola if not to develop spiritually? To develop spiritually means many different things to people depending on their background and religion. Although Capoeira Angola is not a religion for the serious capoeiristas it is treated as one. It is known that we have a lot to learn through Capoeira Angola and are always learning. Many eventually come to the awareness that Capoeira Angola is a medium to interact with our ancestors through playing in the roda or just sitting in the bateria. Through it we are able to leave our worries at the door. And enter into a space that helps us transcend from our egos and stresses that modern living brings about in the age we are in.  Any practitioner of Capoeira Angola can attest to its healing qualities.  However there is a certain amount of darkness within the art that I feel has been brought on by the politics of it.  Many would say that this is a natural thing. And that this always occurs within communities. I disagree. I think that this is a result of opening the circle to outsiders who haven’t been indoctrinated into a ritual of their own. So naturally these people have no idea of what true community is. They instead want to impose a model that is not afrocentric but one based on domination. This has created a digression from how the art had developed in Central/West Africa. There were ancient technologies that had a certain code that ones had to be initiated into before they could practice the art. These initiation rites have been lost or maybe not passed onto as many “capoeiristas” that are out there.  

We call spirits into the roda in order to help achieve goals that cannot be achieved in any other way. This calling needs to remain in a safe containment, the way a baby remains hidden prior to being born. Safe containment means keeping the space away from impurities, any unwanted intrusions. I like the description of how Mestre Moraes once described the roda, "The capoeira ring, whose geometric form facilitates the propagation of energy, is one of the symbolic representations of the 'macro' world. The movements we make inside this ring symbolise the adversities we encounter in life, which we often don't know how to deal with. In the game of life, our opponents, in most cases, know nothing of capoeira, but have movements peculiar to their own game, which we should be able to interpret and understand in their context, taking the capoeira ring as a point of reference.“ Basically, anything that you find in the world/yourself will also be reflected in the roda and vice versa. I pondered over this interpretation of the roda for years and identified with it. As in my brief study of this art I’ve found my own and others personalities to have a direct representation in the roda. If that is the case then the roda is clearly affected by the people that are in it. And when I speak of Capoeira Angola I clearly am speaking about the community of practitioners. My idea of community is summed up as followed:

            Without a community you cannot be yourself. The community  is where we draw the strength needed to effect changes inside of us.   Community is formed each time more than one person meets for a purpose. Development of community depends on what the people involved consent to. What one acknowledges in the formation of the community is the possibility of doing together what is impossible to do alone. This acknowledgement is also an objection against the isolation of individuals and individualism by a society in service of the machine. What we want is to create community that meets the intrinsic need of every individual. The individual can finally discover within the community something to relate to, because deep down inside each of us is a craving for an honouring of our individualism.
                                                                                         - Malidoma Patrice Some

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