Angolan Roots. Welcome!

The Angolan roots of capoeira:

Transatlantic Links of a Globalised Performing Art

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Angolans were prominent among the enslaved Africans who played the game on the streets and squares of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and other Brazilian port cities at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The project did not follow a traditional “listening-only” approach”.

We took capoeira to our interlocutors to help them understand why we were interested in their musical bows and their combat games.

Whilst this led to very productive exchanges between Angolan forms and capoeira and the berimbau, it of course also shaped our focus.

The film Body Games documents combat games, dances and musical instruments in Southern Angola

and explores possible links with Afro-Brazilian traditions, in particular capoeira.

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The documentary tells a story driven by Mestre Cobra Mansa’s need to understand the ancestry of his art form, Capoeira, as part of a wider concern with his Afro-Brazilian heritage. By playing capoeira and engaging with Capoeira masters from Rio and Bahia, Cobra takes us into a world of Africa in Brazil. It is the world of Capoeira, where players kick, spin and dodge to songs that evoke African ancestors, the world of the enslaved and their masters and a mythical place called “Angola”.

The film had its world premiere at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in Tanzania, in June 2014. The DVD was released in June 2014.The documentary film is now available on Vimeo on Demand with English, Portuguese, French and Spanish subtitles. The funds raised through Vimeo on Demand will go to the engolo practitioners in Angola that participated in the making of the film

In the research, the dialogue between capoeira and combat games in Angola:

Combat Games

Combat games often took place in the corral and songs that accompany them refer to cattle or wild animals. Among them, the open-hand fight, kambangula, and engolo. The project supports a network of practitioners who aim to rescue engolo from oblivion.

Musical bows

Many musicial bows are historically documented in Angola, and a number of them are still played today. Among the Nyaneka-Nhkumbi we identified three types that seem particularly relevant: Mbulumbumba, Onkhondji and Nkweya-Nkweya.


Among the many dances of Southwest Angola, Khakula, Ovipiluka or Ovissungo and Onkhili where documented by the project team.

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