Since the early 90s interest in the Afro-Brazilian martial art, Capoeira Angola grew worldwide prompting many Brazilian instructors, Mestres, to move to North America and Europe to shepherd the growth and to maintain its authenticity which includes the history of enslaved Africans, religious practices, and peaceful conflict resolution through movement. In 2015, Contra-Mestre Salim Rollins founded Capoeira Angola Center Kenya (CACK) with the vision of reconnecting Grand Mestre João Grande with Africa and expanding opportunities for at risk youth to learn the martial art.
CACK and Internationality, a company which encourages young people of color to travel beyond tourism, launched the inaugural Mandinga Ancestral: Capoeira Angola and African Arts Festival on 19 November 2017. Over the course of seven days, attendees from Egypt, Japan, Angola, Colombia, Germany, the United States and Kenya visited Nairobi, Naivasha, and Nakuru. The festival’s biggest draw was the series of Capoeira Angola workshops lead by Mestre João Grande. Participants also enjoyed:
- Samba and Axė dance classes as well as live musical performance by Brazilian artist Cissa Paz with Kenyan percussionist Wakake Oti;
- A safari in Nakuru National Park;
- Daily yoga or tai chi;
- A presentation on curative properties of local plants and trees;
- A tour of Kuona Trust artist collective; and
- Meals at Brazilian and Ethiopian restaurants.
Kenyan businesses including HealthyU , Kili Natural, La Maison Royale Hotel Nairobi, Peppercorn Holiday Resort in Naivasha, Pampa Churrascaria , Abyssinia restaurant, and Mama Zaza’s supported the festival through discounts and in-kind donations. Post-event surveys revealed attendees sense of appreciation for the festival delivering an experience above and beyond their expectations. Furthermore, through the organizers’ international sponsorship efforts, five youths from the Kibera and Ngara slums in Nairobi participated for free in the entire festival giving them exposure to different parts of Kenya and African diasporic culture. An additional 40 children from a Nairobi orphanage, who train capoeira with the Kenyan based NGO Moving Cultures, joined the final workshop and roda at the National Theatre for free.
I was able to participate in seeing Capoeira Angola in practice in Africa. In particular, the lineage of Capoeira Angola coming directly from Mestre João Grande through Contra-Mestre Salim. I’m looking forward to Mandinga Ancestral in the future, as well as the growth of Capoeira Angola [in Africa].
– Ramal Lamar, San Francisco, United States
This was my first time in Kenya. We sang a lot. We learned new movements, I learned the new one about the spider and Mestre was happy. It was as it’s supposed to be—the best.
– João Reis, Luanda, Angola
My experience was inspiring—having people from all around the world sharing this culture of capoeira. It was something different, something new. I was able to learn from Mestre and it’s such a pleasure and honor for me. I never knew that one day I’d be able to do it. I feel like I’ve learned for three years being with Mestre for six days.
-Roger Ngaiara, Kibera slum, Kenya
As one of the first international Capoeira Angola festivals in Africa, Mandinga Ancestral established a benchmark for future events—contributing to increased interest in capoeira and cultural tourism in Africa. With support from the local and international capoeira community through direct donations or purchase of Mandinga Ancestral apparel on the website, CACK will continue to offer free workshops for youth in Nairobi slums and open level twice weekly adult classes in Kilieshwa for Ksh 1500.
About Mandinga Ancestral
Mandinga Ancestral 2017: Capoeira Angola and African Arts Festival brought Capoeira Angola living legend Mestre João Grande to Kenya for the first time. The festival represents the important homecoming of an African-based art that took shape among enslaved Africans in Brazil and evolved to a sport practiced in every corner of the world. With events in Nairobi, Naivasha, and Nakuru the festival offered participants a glimpse into the diverse cultures and landscapes of Kenya. The festival website features a shop where international online shoppers may purchase apparel and accessories with the festival logo or make direct donations to support the ongoing effort to teach Capoeira Angola to youth in Nairobi’s slums.
About Capoeira Angola Center Kenya
Founded by Contra Mestre Salim Rollins in 2015 CACK focuses its efforts on teaching free classes to youth living in Nairobi’s slums. CACK also offers adult classes on Tuesday and Thursday in Kileleshwa, Nairobi at Ksh 1500 per class or monthly passes for Ksh 10,000.
Mobile: +254 (0)710 551 721
Launched in April 2017, by lifelong expats Sabre Collier and Yana Fleming, Internationality goal is to help young people of color living in North America to take advantage of the myriad scholarships, paid internships, and funded volunteer opportunities available to current students and recent graduates. With practical guides and inspirational stories from “globalcreators” of all ages, Internationality also offers media and facilitation services to small- to medium-sized enterprises and non-governmental organizations.
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Capoeira Angola Center of Mestre João Grande
Mestre João’s academy, based in New York City. Classes take place daily (except for Saturday), and a roda is held every Sunday afternoon.
Contact: Julissa Herreira
Image Credit: Ranelle Sykes