Capoeira in Palestine: a tour of resistance from slavery to occupation

Image[Portuguese below and Arabic to come]

The Capoeira Freedom Collective – Palestine is hosting a week-long capoeira tour-event from October 24-November 1, 2013. The tour-event will involve workshops, rodas and tours throughout Palestine, giving capoeiristas both from abroad and the West Bank a rare chance to meet and interact.

Palestina sim sim sim… ocupação não não não não.” For Palestinians under military occupation, capoeira’s history of resistance sings a special tune. Like many newcomers to the world of capoeira, many Palestinians are simply attracted to the more flashy sides of the art—mortais, au sem maos, bananeiras. But as time progresses, capoeira begins to take on deeper, more profound meanings.

“The more I learn about the history, the more interested I become,” says Zeina, a member of a new collective of Palestinians practicing capoeira in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “The themes in capoeira echo the reality we live as Palestinians: oppression, resistance, longing for liberation.” Though life under occupation is not the same as slavery, Zeina explains that for all oppressed people, “it’s good to hear about the struggles of others; to learn lessons that others learned the hard way.”

Contact capoeira.palestine@gmail.com to join us on the tour.

As capoeira continues to grow and expand across borders, it is worth asking whether the capoeira world in the 21st century has learned such lessons—especially when it comes to the question of Palestine.

Ramallah lies on the eastern side of what many call the ‘Israeli Apartheid Wall’—an enormous barrier made up of electrified fencing and up to 8-meter high concrete columns stretching over 700 kilometers—snaking through Palestinian land. Palestinians with West Bank IDs, including most members of the newly formed Capoeira Freedom Collective – Palestine, are only able to traverse the Wall if they obtain special permits, which are not easy to get.

The Wall’s route runs deep into occupied territory, cutting Palestinians off from relatives, farmlands, the Mediterranean Sea, and the holy city of Jerusalem. For Palestinian capoeiristas in the West Bank, the Wall also means that, without permits, they are cut off from the many large-scale capoeira events hosted in Israel every year, which are regularly attended by mestres and other teachers from Brazil and elsewhere.

Although Israel claims that building the Wall was for security reasons, many say that Israel has used the Wall to annex large illegal settlement blocs located within the West Bank.  Today, over 600,000 Jewish-Israeli citizens live in settlements throughout the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, amidst over 2 million non-citizen Palestinians. Settlers live in gated communities and drive on Israeli roads that are generally off-limits to West Bank Palestinians. They are governed under Israeli civilian law, as opposed to Palestinians who are ruled under a combination of Palestinian administrative and Israeli military law, and are provided with far superior access to scarce resources such as water.

Capoeristas around the world may be surprised to learn that despite a growing international boycott of settlement goods and companies that operate in West Bank settlements, several of the illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank host capoeira classes, satellites of larger capoeira groups usually based in Israel. A recent list includes the mega-settlement of Ariel in addition to Oranit, Talmon, Givat Ze’ev, and Alfe Menashe.

The significance of this for the name of capoeira—an art form which carries with it such a powerful message of freedom—cannot be understated. By providing classes in settlements, capoeira groups are profiting (perhaps inadvertently) from the occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land while helping to normalize the existence of illegal Israeli settlements.

“It’s an offense to capoeira” says Karam, a collective member. “It simply doesn’t make sense if you think about what capoeira represents.”

The existence of capoeira in settlements with the support of several major Israeli groups poses serious questions to the capoeira world. Are there limits to capoeira’s worldwide expansion? Does the idea that capoeira can be learned by all—except by “those who don’t wish to,” as Mestre Pastinha famously said—apply to teaching capoeira everywhere? Do the widely espoused liberatory messages of capoeira go beyond rhetoric? Should the international boycott of companies operating in the settlements extend to capoeira groups?

There are no easy answers here, but if we are to take the lessons of capoeira’s history seriously, it seems fitting that these questions be given some serious thought.

Peruca

For more information please contact us at capoeira.palestine@gmail.com.

 

Capoeira na Palestina: uma turnê de resistencia da escravidão a ocupação

O Coletivo de Capoeira Liberdade – Palestina está organizando uma turnê-evento com capoeiristas na semana entre 24 de Outubro e 1 de Novembro de 2013. A turnê-evento vai envolver oficinas, rodas e viagens pela Palestina, e será uma oportunidade rara para capoeiristas palestinos e do resto do mundo para se encontrar e interagir.

 

Palestina sim sim sim… ocupação não não não não.” Para palestinos vivendo sob ocupação militar, a historia da capoeira de resistencia soa como uma melodia especial. Como muito iniciantes no mundo da capoeira, muitos palestinos são atraidos pelos acrobaticos movimentos desta arte – mortais, au sem mãos, bananeiras.  Mas com o passar do tempo, a capoeira começa a ganhar uma dimensão e um significado mais profundo.

“Quanto mais eu aprendia sobre a historia, mais interessada eu ficava,” diz Zeina, que participa de um novo coletivo de palestinos praticando capoeira em Ramallah, a principal cidade da Cisjordânia. “Os temas abordados na capoeira ecoam a realidade que nós vivemos como palestinos: opressão, resistencia,  ansia por libertação”. Embora a vida sob ocupação militar não seja a mesma como na escravidão, Zeina explica que para todo povo oprimido, “é bom escutar sobre as lutas dos outros; aprender lições que outros aprenderam pelo caminho mais dificil.

Contato capoeira.palestine@gmail.com para participar do turnê.

Como a capoeira continua a se expandir e crescer para alem das fronteiras brasileiras, vale a pena perguntar se o mundo da capoeira no seculo 21 tem aprendido estas lições – especialmente quando se trata da questão Palestina.

Ramallah fica no lado leste do que muitos chamam de ‘muro de apartheid israelense’, uma enorme barreira feita de cercas eletrificadas e colunas de concreto de até 8 metros de altura, cobrindo mais de 700 quilometros e se infiltrando em terras palestinas. Palestinos com carteira de identidade da Cisjordânia, incluindo a maioria dos membros do Coletivo de Capoeira Liberdade – Palestina, somente são capazes de atravessar o muro obtendo autorizações especiais, o que não são faceis de conseguir.

A rota do muro se infiltra profundamente no territorio ocupado, cortando acesso dos palestinos à suas familias, terras cultivaveis, o Mar Mediterraneo, e a cidade santa de Jerusalem. Para palestinos capoeiristas na Cisjordânia, o muro tambem significa que, sem autorização especial, eles não tem como participar dos varios grandes eventos e batizados que acontecem em Israel todo ano, que são regularmente atendidos por mestres e professores do Brasil e outros países.

Embora Israel alegue que o muro foi construido por razões de segurança, muitos dizem que Israel tem usado o muro para anexar ilegalmente enormes blocos de colonias localizados dentro da Cisjordânia. Hoje, mais de 600 mil cidadãos judeus-israelenses vivem em colonias em toda a Cisjordânia, incluindo a ocupada Jerusalém Oriental, no meio de mais de 2 milhões de palestinos sem cidadania. Colonos vivem em condominios fechados e dirigem nas estradas israelenses que são geralmente fora do limite para palestinos da Cisjordânia. Eles são governados pelo Direito Civil israelense, ao contrário dos palestinos, que são governados por uma combinação de administração palestina e controle militar israelense. Colonos tambem tem acesso priveligiado a recursos escarssos na região, como a água.

Capoeiristas de todo o mundo podem ficar supresos de saber que, apesar de um crescente boicote internacional aos produtos e empresas baseadas nas colonias da Cisjordânia, várias das colonias ilegais de israelenses possuem aulas de capoeira, ligadas a grandes grupos de capoeira geralmente baseados em Israel. Uma lista recente inclui a mega-colonia de Ariel, e mais Oranit, Talmon, Givat Ze’ev e Alfe Menash.

A importância deste fato para o nome da capoeira – uma forma de arte que carrega consigo uma poderosa mensagem de liberdade – não pode ser substimada. Ao oferecer aulas nas colonias, os grupos de capoeira estão lucrando (talvez inadvertidamente) em cima da ocupação e confisco de terras palestinas, e ao mesmo tempo ajudando a normalizar a existencia de colonias ilegais israelenses.

“Isto é uma ofensa para a capoeira”, diz Karam, membro do coletivo de Ramallah. “Simplesmente não faz sentido se você pensa sobre o que a capoeira representa.”

A exitencia de capoeira nas colonias, com o apoio de vários dos principais grupos israelenses, levanta graves questões para o mundo da capoeira. Existem limites para a expansão mundial da capoeira? A ideia que a capoeira pode ser aprendida por todos – exceto por “aqueles que não querem aprender”, como na frase famosa de mestre Pastinha – se aplica a ensinar capoeira em todo lugar? As mensagens de libertação da capoeira espalhadas abertamente vão alem da retorica? Será que o boicote internacional de produtos e empresas operando nas colonias ilegais deveria se extender para os grupos de capoeira?

Não existem respostas faceis aqui, mas se nós vamos levar a serio as lições da historia da capoeira, nos parece apropriado pensar seriamente nestas questões.   

Peruca

 Para maiores informações: capoeira.palestine@gmail.com.

 

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6 thoughts on “Capoeira in Palestine: a tour of resistance from slavery to occupation

  1. nice to hear about palestinian capeiristas, i have to admit i wasn’t aware of it
    i hope all palestians will start playing capoeira, that most probabely will make the seprating wall useless and not needed.
    it’s unfortante that we needed to build that wall, however, as u also mentioned, it’s nothing like slavery.
    the roll of that fence is to prevent terroirst from entering israel, and statistics show it is very useful indeed
    i really hope that palestinians can come to events in israel, and i think that the best way to do it is cooperation and not trying to divide and boycott. in fact, i think that is the essence of capoeira, isn’t it?!
    as mestre pastinha said, everyone that wants to can play capoeira.
    i don’t think u can “boycott” capeora away from israeli settlements, espcially today, when there are som many isarelis instrutores. i also think it’s great that kids in israeli setllements can play and learn capoeira because that will help them learn capoeira values, like the aspiration for freedom. let’s hope one day we can all play together.

    axe galera…
    eu nao vou traduzir todo… favor, vc pode usar google translate…
    espero que um dia a gente pode jogar juntos

    monitor estrelinho

  2. Thanks for sharing your opinion, Estrelinho. I think your comments really reflect the importance of developing this conversation further. Leaving aside for a moment the issue of the Wall (only one aspect of Israeli occupation and apartheid), it sounds to me that what you are advocating is for a capoeira that prioritizes social harmony over resistance and fighting for freedom. There are two very different visions of capoeira’s “essence”, as you put it.

  3. Our greetings from Indonesia,

    I am really pleased that my brother and sister there playing Capoeira. I am a muslim myself, and I regard our differences as human being. I learn it from Capoeira which can unite us as one human, forgetting our differences.

    Hope you enjoy your Jogo there bro/sist!
    Salve!

  4. Capoeira.
    The beautiful game.
    No words.
    No talk.
    No politics of any-sort.
    Capoeira
    The beautiful game.

    The way you play your game
    Is different to mine,
    I listen
    You listen
    You smile
    I smile
    Our smiling makes us play better
    Makes us dare to be brave
    And magnificent
    Each to our own
    Showing the other
    What we –
    ‘Could do’
    But wont.
    Our magnificence
    We are brave

    We play
    We show our magnificence
    We show what we
    ‘Could’ do but wont.
    We breath together –
    Take a pause –
    Jogo Capoeira –
    You go your way
    I go mine
    Until the next time…

    Capoeira
    The beautiful game.

  5. Wish I could go and be there experiencing the ‘tour’.
    I am inspired by what you are doing and what is happening out there in Palestine.
    I wanted to give something – and hope you might like the above.
    Wishing all concerned a very successful event.
    And to my old Capoeira friend and teacher – Goia.xxxx
    Vic

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