Distance and Proximity

… I learnt that distance, as much as proximity, is essential to understand our relationship with both our counterparts and craft. … The message that follows was written to my Brazilian friends (even though some are living abroad) on my way back to Australia. But since I wrote it I realised it’s actually a message to all my friends and counterparts from all over the world, so I translated it to share with you all. I hope you enjoy it. Abraços e Feliz Ano Novo!!

This year, after 4 years without visiting Brazil I could come back and see many friends. While I was there matando as saudades*, (re)learning and refilling to keep up with the mission of working with my culture, I remembered many friends who live abroad and became ambassadors of the Brazilian culture working with music, Capoeira, dance… Some working with all these at once. I have learnt as much in Brazil as abroad, that everyone in love with Brazilian culture becomes an artist; that because we all put forward the message of Brazilian-ness, because we bring in our chest the scent of our land, the blood mark of our ancestors and the fight certainty of our living ones; as put by François Silvestre, o cantador. (Though this was said of Brazilians adrift around the world, I belive it goes with all those orbiting around Capoeira and Brazilian culture too, as we all share most of the same signs, symbols and meanings around these manifestations)

My relation with my friends and with Capoeiragem has changed a lot in these years. I learnt that distance, as much as proximity, is essential for us to understand our relationship with both our counterparts and craftsmanship**. These years of distance taught me that despite life’s turns, group flags or Capoeira orientation (the so called ‘styles’), the distance that make us apart or our own minor differences I learn a lot from you all. I’m, indeed, disciple of a few and maverick in relation to the work of others, but I’m always a discúpulo que aprende e mestre que dá lição.

Time was too short to make up for four years of distance and because of that I couldn’t see everyone or spend as much time as I would like with some. I really would like to bring you all with me everywhere always, but as I can’t, I keep the lessons and our friendship alive through my work, through the Capoeira I practice and teach, and, now, through the friendships extended to other lands. I would like to let all my friends know that you already have other friends in the places I have been travelling to, even though you haven’t had yet the opportunity of (re)meeting them.

Thank you all for our friendship, for the care and support you always show up with, even if from a distance.

I don’t intend to take this long to come back to Brazil again, but I would like to see everyone here in Australia too. My place is open and our new friends are waiting as well.

I hope that in this new year we’ll have more time to be together!

Grande abraço com muito axé para todos!!

* – ‘killing the longing’ or catching up with missed ones, though such translation does not really meet the standards for ‘saudade’.

** – Actually the first time I heard about such concept, it was in Bauman’s book Identity (which I’ll reference here soon). Curiously this time in Brazil while talking to Mestre Danadinho, he also mentioned something similar, in the context that most people in Capoeira are very much into it, but miss the chance of taking a step back to look at it from a different perspective… To some extent I own this lesson to both Bauman (in my readings) and Mestre Danadinho (in my time learning from him) as well.

Capoeira expands activities in the West Bank with assistance from Brazil

Retrieved from UNRWA’s website on 19/12/2011

8 December 2011
Jalazone, West Bank

Boy doing capoeira“Who is the most important person inside this room?” asked capoeira instructor Daniel Vallejo. “Me!” yelled the group of children from Jalazone refugee camp in reply.

Bidna Capoeira launched new activities in the West Bank on Tuesday with support from the Brazilian Representative Office of Ramallah.

Self-expression through physical art

Eight hundred Palestinian children have taken part in these Afro-Brazilian sport and art form since March 2011.

Speaking to the children, Ligia Maria Scherer, Head of the Representative Office of Brazil to the Palestinian Authority said: “One of our aims is to promote freedom of expression and help you cope with the harsh realities of occupation.”

According to the principal of the UNRWA boys’ school, Ahmad Assi, since last semester, there has been improvement in behaviour and learning among students that have participated in capoeira. “We targeted hyperactive kids and immediately noticed a positive change.”

Benefiting the community

Capoeira’s benefits extend to instructors and parents. Vallejo, or Professor Arame as his students call him, has been training in the refugee camps for the last nine months. “The occupation prevents refugee children from expressing themselves properly. This is where capoeira comes in. Here, we are brothers. The children even come by my house on my days off asking to be trained.”

Amina, whose daughter has taken part, expressed her excitement about the programme: “My daughter is always talking about capoeira. She loves the activities and her instructor.”

Bidna Capoeira puts a great emphasis on the participation of children. In fact, the organisation’s name, “came from children in refugee camps on the Syrian/Iraqi border,” said Tarek Alsaleh, Bidna’s managing director.

Capoeira has been an effective tool for creating solidarity and harmony among participants. “We’re like a family that works and practices together. Even kids that used to fight with one another are now friends. There are rules and we learn to follow them,” said 13-year-old Muhammad Nasser.