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Origin of Bahian Capoeira



A. A. Decânio Filho

Translation by Shayna McHugh

A passage from the manuscripts of Noronha confirms our version of the origin of the capoeira game or, as we prefer to call it, the capoeira of Bahia.

Transliteration in current language:

...“Because it is our privelege. Capoeira came from Africa, brought by the Africans; all of us know this; however, it was not educated. We, the Bahians, educated capoeira for its personal defense in the social environment, because it is the most attractive sport of the world”…


Despite little education, Noronha was intelligent, clever, and watchful, like the majority of mestres and capoeiristas of his time, observing, analyzing, deducing and concluding about his great passion, capoeira. Inserted in an environment of predominantly oral culture, he repeated tradition, without ceasing to investigate the credibility of the information, comparing it with his personal experience and trying to include it in the context of the time.

During that time, Brazilian oral tradition associated capoeira with Africans, especially those from Angola, since it was practiced by the popular class, especially maritime classes, which were composed in the great majority of Africans, their descendents (pure or mixed), indigenous people, and poor, acculturated, or Bohemian whites. However, Mestre Noronha perceived that the local components that lent capoeira a regional hallmark were clearly distinct from the Angolan manifestations. It is thus that, despite recognizing it as founded in originally African elements, capoeira is proudly considered by the Mestre as developed by Bahians in its most noble aspects, those which give it educational, social contents, which permit practical applications (physical fitness, self defense, therapy), and which lend it its own identity.

The Mestre thus agrees with our thesis, developed in the beginning of the 1940s, of capoeira’s origin in the Recôncavo.