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Culture Spotlight: Capoeira Society

Aidan Cross

Friday, 5 April 2024

We sat down with Billy Nayani and Qaa’sim Uhuru, Capoeira Society’s President and Instructor, to find out more about one of the University of Nottingham’s newest societies and the incredible art of capoeira.

Our newest print edition was inspired by the theme of rejuvenation and fostering community; on that theme, we’re revitalising our Culture Spotlight series! We sat down with Billy Nayani and Qaa’sim Uhuru, Capoeira Society’s President and Instructor, to find out more about one of the University of Nottingham’s newest societies and the incredible art of capoeira.

 

What is the history and culture of capoeira?

 

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art with strong African roots that originated in Angola. Modern capoeira comes from north-eastern Brazil, particularly Bahia, due to the region’s involvement in the slave trade and over three hundred years of slavery. Capoeira developed amongst  enslaved West African peoples and their descendants in Brazil as a way of maintaining their culture and traditions. In 2014, it was designated an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

 

Describe capoeira for someone that has little to no knowledge of it

 

Capoeira is a fusion of martial arts, acrobatics, dance, and music. It is typically performed in a roda – the circle in which the game is played. Everyone participates within the roda,, whether as one of the two contestants, as a musician playing an instrument such as the pandeiro, a hand frame drum, or berimbau, a musical bow, to set the rhythm, or as a spectator, singing and clapping.

 

There are three styles of capoeira: capoeira Angola – the traditional style; capoeira regional; and capoeira contemporânea. Traditional capoeira Angola leans more heavily into the playful game of capoeira (the dance and the music) whereas capoeira regional, which was founded in the 1930s by Mestre Bimba*, is more acrobatic and more of your typical martial art. The modern capoeira contemporânea is a combination of the two styles.

 

*Mestre – a keen linguist might notice the similarity to Maestro or Master, a Mestre is a master practitioner of capoeira and Mestre Bimba, as you might guess, is a legend of the art.


What do you enjoy most about capoeira?

 

Qaa’sim: Capoeira maintains a strong link to African culture and is an active, holistic way to engage with and learn about Brazilian culture and history.

 

Billy: The happiness of capoeira and the positive energy within the sessions. No matter how bad your day has been, capoeira is a way to bring positive energy back into the day.

 

How can students get involved with capoeira?

 

Capoeira Society run weekly one-hour sessions on Thursdays from 5-6pm in Monica Partridge, in room B02, which are taught by Qaa’sim. Aimed at beginners, the sessions don’t teach any specific style of capoeira. Instead  they are focused on the music, movements and flow of capoeira, such as the ginga – the fundamental movement in capoeira, the sway, performed by placing both feet shoulder-width apart and moving one foot back and forth – as well as kicks, escapes, and sequences.

 

Make sure to follow Capoeira Society on Instagram to find out more about the society and the art of capoeira and to keep up to date with their sessions!

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Culture Spotlight: Capoeira Society

Aidan Cross

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