The project The Angolan Roots of Capoeira: Transatlantic Links of a Globalised Performing Art explored the transatlantic links between the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira and combat games in Southern Angola.
An extended period of civil war made it difficult to carry out fieldwork in the interior of Angola until 2003. The research aims both to fill a significant gap in scholarship and disseminate its outcomes to the wider public through a documentary and publications.
The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) from 2010 to 2013, with additional funding for the documentary's postproduction raised through a successful indiegogo crowd funding campaign.
The documentary Body Games - Capoeira and Ancestry is one of the major outcomes of the research project and was completed in November 2013. It has been shown at many documentary film festivals in Africa, Europe, and the Americas throughout 2014 and 2015.
The film is co-directed by Richard Pakleppa, Professor Matthias Röhrig Assunção and capoeira master Cobra Mansa, and follows Cobra Mansa and the team on travels through Angola and Brazil in search of the historical roots of his art. The journey explores deeper connections between slavery, identity and society.
Body Games - Capoeira and Ancestry held its premiere at Zanzibar International Film Festival in June 2014. The film won the following awards:
Principal InvestigatorPhilosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Essex
From 1985 to 1992 I taught History at the Latin American Institute of the FU Berlin, before coming to Essex in 1993. I have been a visiting lecturer at various Brazilian universities (UFMA, USP, UFRJ & UFF). Since 2007 I am an associate researcher of the Laboratory of Oral History and Image (LABHOI) and the Research Centre for Cultural History(NUPEHC), both located at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro state in Niteroi (UFF). I serve on the editorial boards of the journals Bulletin of Latin American Research (since 2001) and Iberoamericana (since 2004).
Senior Research Officer
Dr Christine Dettmann was the Senior Research Officer of the project until 2013. She now holds a chair in Ethnomusicology at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München in Germany and continues to be a visiting fellow at the History Department of the University of Essex.
Dr Mariana P Candido is specialized in the history of Angola from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Her current research examines the social and political effects of the transatlantic slave trade in Benguela and its hinterland. More broadly her interests include the history of slavery, forced migration and slave trade, the South Atlantic world, and the African diaspora. She is the author of Fronteras de Esclavización: Esclavitud, Comercio e Identidad en Benguela, 1780-1850 (Colegio de Mexico Press, 2011), An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World. Benguela and its Hinterland (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and the co-author of Crossing Memories: Slavery and African Diaspora with Ana Lucia Araújo and Paul Lovejoy (Africa World Press, 2011). She is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History at the University of Kansas.
The renowned capoeira mestre (master) Cobra Mansa (Cinésio Feliciano Peçanha, graduated mestre in 1984) has been performing and teaching capoeira for the last thirty years. He is the founder and president (1994-2004) of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation, an NGO based in Washington, DC, with a dozen affiliated groups in Brazil, the US, and Europe. Mestre Cobra Mansa holds a degree in physical education and has researched movements, music, lyrics and instruments of capoeira for many years. He is a well-known and highly-respected teacher of capoeira across the world and has given many workshops and talks in the US, Western Europe, Russia, Japan, and Latin America. He worked as a consultant for Mandinga in Manhattan (2005), a documentary about the globalisation of capoeira, and has performed as a leading musician on Audio-CDs of capoeira music. He also links permaculture to Capoeira Angola in his communal project Permangola in Bahia, Brazil.
Richard Pakleppa is an independent filmmaker. He was awarded a Degree in African Studies, University of Cape Town for a thesis on performance culture, political struggle and identity in the townships of Cape Town, 1983-86. Since 1990 he has made films incorporating oral history and storytelling in Namibia, South Africa and Angola. The documentary Angola, saudades from the one who loves you (2005) won best documentary award at the Three Continents Film Festival; at the Durban International film festival and at the Munich Documentary Film Festival. Land, Fire and Water (2009) gives voice to the San communities in southern Angola.