Fundaçao Mestre Bimba
The Fundaçao Mestre Bimba is a non-profit located in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil dedicated to the rescue and preservation of the teachings of Mestre Bimba, a regional and national cultural figure. Capoeira is recognized as a national heritage, and can be found on 6 continents of the globe. It has brought Afro-Brazilian culture around the world, and brings traveling capoeiristas from around the world to Brazil every day. Beyond what capoeira has given to the world, capoeira has given much to the Brazilian people, especially those of African descent.
Brazil, like North America, was brutally colonized by Europeans in the 16th century. The main industries were timber, dyes, and agricultural products like coffee and sugar, which required large labor forces to cultivate. In order to keep production costs down and profit at a high, these colonizers (both Dutch and Portuguese to begin) imported Africans to work as slaves both on the plantations and in the cities, on the docks. In 1800, Brazil’s population was over 75% African-descended—and whether slave or freed, this population was oppressed, discriminated against, and suffered greatly at the hands of the ruling class. Violence, economic sanctions, and social discrimination were structurally imposed to maintain an unequal society that greatly privileged the ruling (white) class. Despite these structural constraints, the human spirit dominated, and has left us a number of incredible cultural forms, including capoeira, which over time have become pan-racial in their appeal, including capoeira, samba, and Candomblé—cultural expressions rejected and even criminalized in the 19th century, and then later elevated and claimed as a part of the nation’s official cultural heritage in the 20th.
Mestre Bimba was key in changing the way that Brazil understood capoeira. Mestre Bimba, (Manoel dos Reis Machado) was born on November 23, 1899. Capoeiras were under attack by law already in 1825 under the guise of disorderly conduct and a threat to public order, and after the abolition of slavery in 1888, capoeira itself was made illegal in 1890, as part of the mission to control and demoralize the recently freed population. In Salvador, it was heavily criminalized through the first decades of the 20th century. Mestre Bimba worked to preserve and to re-legitimize the cultural aspects of the practice, giving to capoeira discipline and respect and taking it off the streets—in 1937 he opened the first ever capoeira academy, where he taught his Luta Regional da Bahia not just to afro-descendants living in the peripheries, but to white professionals as well. In 1953 Mestre Bimba and his students were invited to perform for President Vargas, who afterwards claimed that capoeira was ‘the only truly national sport’ of Brazil. Mestre Bimba effectively rescued capoeira, revitalizing it and creating his own methodologies for teaching and playing. He also maintained a cultural show, keeping Maculele, Puxada de Rede, and Samba de Roda, all traditional Bahian cultural expressions, alive—cultural expressions that had served over the centuries as systems of meaning, solace, rhythm, and beauty for Africans and their descendants in the face of the most horrible persecutions.
These days there are as many different methodologies of capoeira as there are groups and teachers—but all are indebted to the work of Mestre Bimba in revitalizing the art. The Fundaçao Mestre Bimba is dedicated to keeping Mestre Bimba’s life’s work alive. The Fundaçao has also piloted the Projecto Capoeré, dedicated to bringing capoeira regional to at risk children in Salvador, Bahia. Capoeira Regional can bring confidence to those who are shy, build teamwork in those who think they have to do everything alone, teach respect to a child who has no role models, as well as generally teach citizenship and honorable practices. The Projecto Capoerê has served thousands of children in Salvador, and a number of these children have continued on to become Professors in the Filhos de Bimba capoeira school. These professors have overcome all odds to find success in a practice that celebrates a uniquely Bahian culture, and many now teach this cultural expression around the world!
Fort Worth Capoeira is incredibly indebted to the Fundaçao for all the support they have shown to Borboleta over the years, sharing knowledge, providing unique experiences and giving amazing support to her journey in capoeira. If you are interested in donating directly to the Fundaçao, let us know, and we will put you in contact with the directors!
References and Footnotes
- Andrews, George Reid. Afro-Latin America 1800-2000. Oxford University Press, 2004. ↩
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