- Title: DEMOCRATIC RUBLIC OF CONGO: Capoeira craze grips young Congolese
- Date: 14th May 2013
- Summary: VARIOUS OF MEMBERS OF CAPOEIRA ACADEMY PRACTISING CAPOEIRA
- Embargoed: 29th May 2013 13:00
- Location: Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
- Country: Congo, Democratic Republic of
- Topics: Arts,General,Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA9ZSIMHH7G7SQEYBOWASBT6C75
- Story Text: In a school courtyard in DR Congo's capital Kinshasa, a group of young boys practice the ancient art form of Capoeira.
Half dance, half martial arts, Capoeira is said to have originated from African slaves taken to Brazil to work in plantations, and was first practised over 450 years ago.
Yannick Salambo, a young IT professional fell in love with Capoeira when he first watched it being performed on television, but it was not until 2006 that he was inspired to learn after attending a cultural festival in Kinshasa.
After mastering the moves, Salambo went on to start a school where he now teaches Capoeira to young Congolese between the ages of 6 and 28 years old.
"The Capoeira Academy is like a family, so amongst these children, there are those who are homeless, those who have no families, and who have come here to find a family. Then there are those like myself for example who are passionate about capoeira, and it brings me a lot of joy to be able to share it with others. Later on, those who study under me can choose how they want to practice it, either as a sport or a hobby, everyone can find something in it," he said.
African slaves used Capoeira's dance movements as a way to fool their masters that this was a harmless, playful traditional dance. But in essence the slaves used the acrobatic nature of the dance to keep fit, fight for their freedom and eventually escape their masters.
When the slave masters realised this, they banned Capoeira. Anyone caught practising it received the death penalty.
For almost 400 years, African captives taught and practised Capoeira in secret. It was not until the 1930's that it became legal.
Here in Kinshasa, the art form is not only used as a motivational tool for young people, it is also used to teach discipline.
Sandro Branchi, a Brazilian expatriate and member of the Capoeira Academy living in Kinshasa, says that Capoeira has proven an important tool in helping disadvantaged youth off the streets of Brazil.
"Capoeira began in poor communities in the fevelas (townships) of Rio, Rio Salvador Baia, and this sport has helped a lot of people come out of the life of criminality. It has done a lot to help many children from poor communities, and here, capoeira has developed a lot," said.
Music is used to keep the rhythm of the players, as they move to the beat. The song can either be intense or calm the levels of interactions.
One of the main instruments that is used is the Berimbao - made out of a longbow attached to a calabash with a vibrating string.
Two players try and show their mastery inside a circle of onlookers singing and playing instruments.
With different varieties of cartwheels, round offs, spin kicks and ducks, Capoeira is physically demanding and is sure to break a sweat, and requires a great deal of concentration.
In a country like DR Congo, where years of political instability and conflict have destroyed most institutions and fostered exacerbating unemployment and poverty, Capoeira instructor Bubua Itoko says the art form can help young people improve their lives.
"When we look at the current situation, with the crisis that the country is going through, you can see that young people are idle, they spend their time drinking and doing drugs. But I can use Capoeira to give them direction and give them a better life, so that one day, they can make something out of their lives, away from all these vices," he said.
Young Capoeira student, Nziga Kuvu says he didn't need much convincing to join the academy.
"I saw it on it for the first time on TV, and I liked it. My aunt had told me about one of her friends who was doing Capoeira, and it motivated me to also learn how to practice Capoeira," said Kuvu.
The Capoeira Academy has more than 600 members and plans to grow beyond Kinshasa to open academies across the country.
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