The influence of Angola on the celebrated Afro-Brazilian art form of Capoeira is being investigated by a major research project being led by Dr Matthias Röhrig Assunção from the Department of History at the University of Essex.
The project, made possible by a £367,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will look into combat, dance, music, song and performance used in Capoeira and their connections with surviving Angolan traditions.
Dr Assunção will be leading a team including film maker Richard Pakleppa, Angolan history specialist Dr Mariana Candido from Princeton University and Mestre Cobra Mansa, founder and president of the International Foundation of Capoeira Angola.
He said: ‘We want this research to be collaborative. We are looking to actively involve Capoeira and Angolan traditional performers so we can promote a dialogue between traditions that have not been in direct contact for more than a century.
‘By encouraging an exchange of ideas we hope to generate new insights into Angolan and Afro-Brazilian practices and how they have changed and influenced each other over time.’
The research will build on a pilot project undertaken by Dr Assunção in 2006 with the support of the University’s Promotion Fund.
Alongside preparing articles for academic and non-academic journals, the team will also be creating a documentary and DVD for broadcast on Brazilian and Angolan television and developing an archive of material for future generations of academics and Capoeira practitioners.
Capoeira developed during the nineteenth century amongst African and Creole slaves in Brazil. It has now become one of the most well known parts of Brazilian culture.
Combat games still exist in Angola which use similar techniques and musical instruments to those used in Capoeira. There are also traditional songs, dances and ritual connected to these practices.
Dr Assunção said: “A longer term aim is to raise awareness of the Angolan contribution to world culture, in particular to Afro-Brazilian music and Capoeira.
"This will support the country's reconstruction efforts after 40 years of civil wars and raise awareness of the need for Angolan traditional performers to be supported by governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). This will also help create new opportunities for cultural tourism.”
If you need any further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 873529.