Mestre Cosmo and his legacy to Piracicaba capoeira

Mestre Cosmo and his legacy to Piracicaba capoeira

By Letícia Vidor de Sousa Reis.

Contemporary capoeira in Piracicaba has as its main representative Claudival da Costa, the late Mestre Cosmo, graduated capoeira master in 1996 by Mestre Miguel Machado, leader of the Grupo Cativeiro. Cosmo was born on July 28th 1955 in Piracicaba, and died prematurely on April 26th 2004, at the age of 48, victim of a fulminant heart attack.

Methodology of this article and collaborators

This blog was written on the basis of testimonies from people who lived with Mestre Cosmo, mainly in the capoeira scene of Piracicaba, with their speeches and opinions duly identified in the text.

The interviewees were asked three questions to guide their statements:

  1. What did you admire most about Master Cosmo?
  2. I heard that he put a lot of emphasis on dancing in his game. Do you agree?
  3. What is Mestre Cosmo’s greatest legacy for capoeira in Piracicaba?

Elegance in the game

Certainly elegance is the main mark highlighted in Mestre Cosmo’s game, which, in the words of Mestre Zequinha, had “an unparalleled plasticity”. However, the display of harmony and lightness did not leave aside the agility and the evolution of the game. As recalled by Antonio Filogênio Jr., Mestre Cosmo’s lesson was about the aesthetics and intelligence of the game, that is, about the control of the movements that allies the plasticity of the action to the right timing of the game.

Mestre Djop adds a new dimension to the elegance attributed to M. Cosmo: “Yes, no matter how much he was disadvantaged in a game, or his opponent was aggressive, he always remained calm, his answers were always non-aggressive!” Hence, by “taking up these positions in the roda and the polite and educated way he treated the capoeiristas [he showed] leadership inside and outside capoeira”. We may thus suspect how much Cosmo’s leadership extended beyond the roda, or rather, how much the “elegance” of his game extended to strong interpersonal relations and was something he made a point of fostering among his students.

Capoeira as resistance and valorization of negritude

Djop says that he met Cosmo in 1979 and that at that time his way of seeing capoeira as resistance was an innovation. In his work, Cosmo dedicated himself to training students to be aware of the black and indigenous values present in capoeira, so that “all those who passed through his hands, and who are still in the world of capoeira today, are aware of the importance of valuing negritude in capoeira. In the same vein, Cosmo drew up projects to be developed by him with the Piracicaba City Hall, expanding his network of action in local culture.

M. Zequinha also emphasizes the message of “resistance, appreciation and even the awareness of being who we are: black and able to be whatever we want!” in Cosmo’s teachings. Likewise, for M. Mysso, “[one of Cosmo’s] main legacies (…) to capoeira is [the fact that] he regards it as an instrument of resistance of the Negro race,” and Antonio Filogênio, in the same vein, testifies: “[Cosmo] regarded capoeira as this great intangible heritage of the community, of resistance and of the culture surrounding Africanness on Brazilian soil.”

Since its founding in 1978, the Grupo Cativeiro has created a social representation of capoeira as an “expression of a race” (REIS, 1997). As we may note, it is precisely this emphasis on the values of negritude that comes across in the remarks of Djop, Zequinha, Mysso and Antonio Filogênio.

Mestre Cosmo (standing and with open arms) participates in a batizado on the Island of Itaparica (BA) in 1991. Photo from Mestre Cosmo’s personal collection.

Incentive to the workshops of afro dance

Cosmo was an excellent dancer and, within his understanding of the need to promote blackness, he especially valued the “Dança Afro”. As his work was always permeated by the dissemination of knowledge, M. Cosmo “always encouraged his students to take part in the Afro-Dance workshops offered in Piracicaba”, as observed by M. Djop. Antonio Filogênio also recalled Cosmo’s commitment to Afro-dance workshops: “When there were Afro-dance workshops in town, he always encouraged us to take them, but always reminding us that capoeira is a fight.

Still on Cosmo’s openness to other artistic manifestations related to the idea of expressing Africanness, M. Mysso comments that:

Mestre Cosmo had great knowledge, because he was a cultured person with regard to capoeira and also appreciated black culture, especially black music. Everything that happened in relation to music, he followed firsthand.”

Recogniton and legacy

Maria Luísa, Mestre Cosmo’s widow, tells us that Cosmo started training capoeira in the Gymnasium, at the lower end of the 15th November Sport Club XV in Piracicaba, with a person called João, whose last name is unknown. In 1976, he started training with professor Roberto Alves Pinto, at the Academia de Capoeira Oxóssi. In 1978, he joined the group Cativeiro, in Ribeirão Preto (SP), where he became the oldest student. Cosmo was the first mestre to open a capoeira group in Piracicaba: the local Cativeiro branch at Rua Voluntários de Piracicaba, 1223.

M. Cosmo, who until now has not had his work sufficiently recognised, is the most important reference in Piracicaba of the Grupo Cativeiro (one of the great São Paulo groups presided over by Mestre Miguel Machado since its foundation), and of undeniable importance for capoeira in the city.

As for his legacy, Mestre Cosmo left his testimony of the experience of capoeira, as Antonio Filogênio says:
The greatest legacy Cosmo leaves us is the example of brotherhood and dialogue. Although he belonged to the Cativeiro, he never missed an event, be it Angola, Regional or Contemporary, and said that capoeira is what matters most”.
Mestre Cosmo’s originality, in my opinion, lies in the great importance he attached to the elegance of the capoeira game, especially to dance – though he never neglected its martial aspect – as well as to its underlying character of resistance and the importance of preserving the values of negritude.
One of the most important tributes paid to Mestre Cosme is the granting of the medal that bears his name to the main representatives of the Piracicaba Capoeira Groups by the City Council, on the initiative of the National Capoeira Festival Piracicaba – Fenacap.
During the celebration of Capoeirista Day in 2022, the Mestre Cosmo medal was awarded to people who strengthen the practice of capoeira in the city. Photo by Guilherme Leite, on the Piracicaba City Council website.

Contributors with testimonials (in alphabetical order):

Antonio Filogênio Junior – disciple of Mestre Cosmo, with whom he started training capoeira in 1987.

Maria Luísa Rigo da Costa – widow of Mestre Cosmo.

Mestre Djop Barbosa – made master by Mestre Miguel Machado, in 1998. His capoeira school operates in Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium, where they were founded in 2001. Djop remained in Cativeiro until 2012.

Mestre Geninho – received diploma of master in 2000, by Liga de Capoeira Piracicabana. He started training capoeira with Cosmo in 1977, in the Grupo Cativeiro, where he stayed until 1998. Worked with Mestre China until 2000. Today he gives capoeira classes at the Associação de Capoeira Engenho Central.

Mestre Mysso – received the diploma of Mestre from M. Miguel Machado, in 1998. In 2000, he founded the Associação Resgate de Capoeira in Piracicaba. Today he gives capoeira classes in Belgium.

Mestre Zequinha – received his teaching diploma from Cosmo in 1985 and the master diploma from Boca Rica and Lua de Bobó in 2001. His school of Capoeira Raiz de Angola was opened in 1996 in Piracicaba.

I thank Elaine Teotônio and Marcos Farias, from the Afropira collective, for the information shared with me.

My gratitude to all of them!

Leticia Vidor
Letícia Vidor Reis holds a BA in History, a Master and a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of São Paulo (USP). From 1988 to 2006, she taught in the History course at the Methodist University of Piracicaba and since 1986 she has been an effective teacher at the Edson Rontani school in the state of São Paulo.



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