Unlike many masters of his generation, Daniel Coutinho, better known as Mestre Noronha, could read and write. It was thus possible for him to leave behind his manuscripts, a precious legacy consisting of a kind of personal journal, published for the first time in 1993 by Fred Abreu. Together with Mestre Pastinha’s writings, Noronha’s manuscripts represent an invaluable source for the history of 20th century capoeira, as there are very few testimonies that provide an insider’s view of Bahia’s capoeira, before the innovations and changes that took place from the 1930s onwards. Written over the years 1974-77, Noronha not only remembers the “baderna”, as he called capoeira in his youth, but also reflects on the evolution of capoeira since then.
From his manuscripts one can see that writing was not something that flowed easily for him, so much so that he wrote everything in capital letters. His spelling also reflects both the old spelling he learned at school (e.g. “elle” instead of “ele”) and the regional pronunciation of Bahia. Nor did M Noronha use punctuation, as if he were transposing his speech directly into writing.
We reproduce here some extracts from his original handwritten notebook, taken from the original published in 1993 by Fred Abreu, and an English translation.
3. Origin of capoeira
4. Festa do Largo [or Square Celebrations]
5. Roda da Curva Grande, 1917
6. Capoeira Angola Competition Rules
Here are written some fundamentals of Capoeira angola of the State of Bahia, the first capoeira centre of the State of Bahia, at Ladeira de Pedra, Liberdade neighbourhood, founded by the great masters Daniel Coutinho – Noronha, Livino, Maré, Amorzinho, Raimundo ABR, Percílio, Geraldo Chapeleiro, Juvenal Engraxate, Geraldo Pé de Abelha, Zehi, Feliciano Bigode de Seda, Bonome, Henrique Cara Queimada, Onça Preta, Cimento, Algemiro Grande Olho de Pombo longshoreman, Antonio Galindo, Antonio Boca de Porco stevedore, Candido Pequeno Argolinha de Ouro champion of Bahia, Lúcio Pequeno, Paquete do Cabula. Then ABR introduced Mestre Pastinha. Because of the death of Amorzinho, the guard, we handed over the Centre to Mestre Pastinha to take care and this Centre was registered by the efforts of Mestre Pastinha, who knew how to raise this Center to prominence, thanks to the Good Lord, to this Spirit of Light that guided Mestre Pastinha [and?] the Minister of Education, who sought to teach capoeira in the schools of Brazil. Because it is personal defense, and that is the truth, and so I say Mestre Noronha has been in this mess since he was 8 years old, in the midst of good, bad and evil. So I sought to know the fundamentals of this sport that was so hated by the governor as the police. I was very persecuted by the police. Mestre Noronha, Bahia. Mestre Livino Malvadeza. (p. 17)
COUTINHO, Daniel. O ABC da Capoeira Angola. Os manuscritos do Mestre Noronha. Com explicações, notas, glossário e anexos de Frederico Abreu. Brasília: DEFER/GDF, 1993.
ASSUNÇÃO, Matthias Röhrig. ‘Uma visão de dentro da vadiação baiana. Os manuscritos do Mestre Noronha e o seu significado para a história da capoeira’. Revista África(s), Núcleo de Estudos Africanos e da Pós-Graduação Lato Sensu em Estudos Africanos e Representações da África, da Universidade do Estado da Bahia (UNEB), Campus II, Alagoinhas, v.1, n.2 (Jul-Dec 2015): 81-100.
PIRES, Antonio Liberac Cardoso Simões. A capoeira na Bahia de Todos os Santos. 1. ed. Goiânia: Editora UFT/Grafsete, 2005.