Mestre Cobra Mansa on Red Bull (English Translation)

photo credit: FICA

Reflections on Red Bull Paranaue 2018 by Mestre Cobra Mansa


“When education isn’t liberating, the dream of the oppressed is to be the oppressor” (Paulo Freire).


We could easily exchange the word “education” for “Capoeira”, by aiming to occupy the position of the oppressor, unconsciously the individual desires to maintain the broad social structure that he/she today feels oppressed by with the hope of one day becoming the oppressor.

Is the mentality of colonialism so embedded within us that we are no longer able to reflect on who we were, who we are, or what we are creating for future generations? Are we simply replicating the thoughts of the oppressor?

How can you fight for the decolonization of the body, mind, and society when we convert our symbols of resistance into simple spectacles? Because when that happens, you change what used to be originally dangerous into something clean, safe, and domesticated – we withdraw its power for rebelion. Are we, Capoeiristas, fighting for a goal of decolonization, with the intention of provoking and insurgency (not clear what he means here)? A goal of decolonization implies a continuous struggle.

The esthetic dimension of Capoeira when it is appropriated and controlled by the mass culture industry leads us to a process of alienation of our own ancestral culture. Does this aesthetic/cultural understanding  reduced into a spectical of exotisism really interest us?

Or does it only satisfy only the personal vanity and the impositions of the oppressor, racist, sexist, and they put Capoeira within the logic of spectacle, of “show”, of “entertainment”, of “competition”, that characterizes contemporary society, capitalism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, colonization…

Capoeira loses its function as resistance (a force for resistance) and becomes vulnerable, fallen, domesticated, colonized.

Even so, Some Capoeiristas well or ill intentioned believe that with the domination of mega creative capitalist industries, we may be able to bring some benefit to Capoeira.

The defenders of those mega spectacles argue that Capoeira finally has the support that it deserves, in other words, that a large multi-national company to make a large scale project(as in Red Bull Paranaue). Are they not simply surfing the wave of Capoeira that sweat, blood, and tears, was able after centuries of discrimination to find its own way?

I believe that Red Bull offers a platform for those that want to make a spectacle. A question that I would like to discuss with the organizers is, “At what point do we continue creating spectacles just to “have fun” without consequence?”. Why do we need to continue with these competitions where we are made to compete amongst each other simply to entertain others and take attention away from the social problems that affect Capoeira and our society?

Capoeira throughout its trajectory [history] has demonstrated a different history that other martial art modalities. The Capoeirista, both in the present and the past, sought to show that Capoeira is a multidisciplinary art. The history of Capoeira already proved that as much as society wants, we do not fit in the small boxes that modern society imposes.

Here is a question, if these big companies would really like to make an effort to show the full potential of Capoeira, could we not try a different proposal like celebrating with prizes and sponsorships, the best social work done through Capoeira – the most complete work of Capoeira with regard to education? The most complete school/group with regards to social work, for the development of Capoeira in the most comprehensive way. A full scholarship for the Capoeira students from the periphery who stand out the most in their studies within Capoeira and school?

After so many fights and sacrifices by our ancestors, I believe that it is time for us as Capoeiristas to show who we are and what we want, by seeking the support and alliances of those who want to be with us in this fight, in a holistic way. How do we want to be remembered? What is the legacy that we will leave to future generations of Capoeiristas, are we fulfilling the wishes of our ancestors?

How are we constructing our ancestry inside and outside of Capoeira?

Have we stopped to think what kind of Capoeira we are teaching to our future generations?

Instead of uniting against social and cultural exploitation, is it the case that we are on a wim giving up Capoeira to a capitalist system?

Capoeira has riches, but its not for sale. He who sells Capoeira, with Zumbi [dos palmares] they will understand (not sure what he means here. Its some metaphor). Capoeira came from Africa, to give us freedom. He who sells Capoeira, my friend, will return to slavery.


Mestre Cobra Mansa

Master of Capoeira Angola

PHD student of DMMDC, UFBA and member of Rede Africanidade BA


* please let me know if any translation is incorrect. I am not a professional translator, but I’m fairly fluent in Portuguese.

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