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The Religious Foundations of Capoeira Angola

The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice

Sergio González Varela

Scholars commonly associate the religiosity of capoeira with the Afro- Brazilian religion of Candomblé, although some consider capoeira to be exclusively a martial art or even a sport. From the vantage point of the leaders of capoeira Angola groups, their individual power comes from a set of magical attributes that go beyond the influence of Afro-Brazilian religions. In this article, I explore an alternative form of spirituality that is based on the existence of spiritual beings such as the ancestors and the dead mestres (leaders). I argue that these entities emerge only in capoeira performances, affecting ritual action in such a way as to constitute an alternative form of religion that co-exists with Candomblé. By focusing on the effects that these spirits have in the configuration of charismatic personal power, it is possible to delineate cosmological attributes that make capoeira a potential religious practice in its own right.

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Mandinga

Power and Deception in Afro-Brazilian Capoeira

Sergio González Varela

This article is about the meaning of mandinga in Afro-Brazilian capoeira as it is practiced in the city of Salvador, Brazil. Capoeira is an art form that combines elements of ritual, play, and fight. My main argument focuses on the mandinga as an indigenous form of power that shapes social relations, bodily interaction, magic acts, and the definition of a person. The concept of mandinga offers an understanding of the deceptive logic of capoeira and contributes to the development of an ethnographic theory of power. The emphasis here is on the importance of mandinga as a strategy for fighting and as a principle for social interaction with strong ontological implications. It is considered a cosmological force that affects the foundations of subjective reality and the perception of the world.