Popular culture and participatory planning: a possibility
of analysis through Capoeira driven events

Associação de Capoeira Angonal
Celinalda Mesquita Santana




    Capoeira supplies a rich source for study and professional performance to gymnastics teacher committed with popular education. Historically, capoeira has been changing and undertaking strictly sportive characteristics. There is a belief that culture is the reference that should drive capoeira’s events that aim to contribute to preserve its history, rituals and traditions. The objective of this study is to increase the discussion about the possibility of events profile construction through Participatory Planning among professionals that work with capoeira. So, we look for the conjugation of the different perspectives of capoeira’s elements appropriation to make possible a pedagogical approach that glimpses the singularity of this popular educational practice, the reason to develop the work.
    Keeywords: Gymnastics. Participatory planning. Popular culture and capoeira.

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This is part of the monograph text for the Education Planning and Administration Specialization Course at UERJ.


    Culture seen as the reference that makes possible to man become human, as long as it makes him a social being, result of interactions between the existing symbols in his environment and the meanings given to them by each individual or society, is the guiding parameter necessary to accomplish a pedagogical practice committed to reflection. This reflection shows the understanding of the society in motion. The tension among the various kinds of social knowledge will position each social group on a particular social intervention expectation revealed through social interaction. The cultural demonstrations produced hereby extrapolate far beyond the perspective of behaviors understood by the notion of the global and consensual "human nature" presence. And, besides, overtake the concept of a "relativism" that atomizes human cultural productions as result of various societies plurality, ignoring that are circumscribed to an idea of man and world. According to Geertz (1989, p.61), culture is much more than "simple expressions, instrumentality or related to our social, psychological and biological existence: they are prerequisites. Without men for sure there would not have culture, but in the same and much more significantly way, without culture there would not have men." In order to enlarge our knowledge about culture and the different roles played and assigned to an individual in our society, it is necessary that we make clear the different existing discourses about popular culture. If we consider that exist two kinds of knowledge: legitimized or non-legitimized in our society, we will not have a great improvement in order to build a pedagogical practice that considers popular culture as human experiences and relationships live space. We believe that, to the "out-of-context universalization" proposed by traditional pedagogy, a reflexive pedagogical practice, that aims to contribute to individual autonomy, should be positioned

"as support to the person unique development or as a preparation to social life (and not anymore as an initiation to an ideal human order, illustrated by a repertoire of canonical references), education is driven, from now on, to particular individual, located in space and time, and whose capabilities, as well as expectations and dispositions, reflect the "objective" characteristics of the social world and the mental world in which we are driven to live" (Forquin, 1993, p.124).

    It is important to emphasize that, when we refer to popular culture, we are not assuming that there are tight blocks of cultures that coexist in a random way in social context, without intercommunication. Neither we believe that takes place the intentional production of different cultures that, independently from the existing cultural shocks in the rich social tissue, insist in isolate themselves, but, we differ the popular culture, produced in the core of cultural richness and variety existing in our country, from mass culture that permeates the present society and characterizes

"the capitalistic society, marked by the unequal distribution of cultural assets and by the rationalization of culture to capitalistic industry logic, (that) excludes most of the population, not only from the access to elaborated knowledge, to science and to technique, as well as the dilution / destruction of culture spontaneous forms. It is left to the popular classes the culture leftovers, the vulgar "cultural garbage", the mass culture, broadcasted by the communication means, disguised as democratic, showing the sponsor’s brand" (Chauí, 1995, p.56).

    By assumption, the cultural activities educate and reeducate the individual, humanizing him, as much as there is the possibility to confront, critically, his particular experience in social space with collective experience. So, given each society’s specific characteristics, we will have different meanings attributed to its corporal expression forms. Therefore, Brazilian culture, in its specific and diverse characteristics, attributes to the gesture a particular meaning of our people. Through Brazilian people body language comprehension, the result of social-historical factors multiplicity that intervene in our various body manifestations configuration, we believe that it is possible to follow a pedagogical practice committed to a reflection and oriented to our social context.

Capoeira events: comings and goings

    All the rhythmic and gesture richness of our culture may be interpreted, if we observe, for some minutes, a capoeira circle (roda). For us, only this aspect would be enough to justify its diffusion in Brazil in the recent years and its pedagogical importance to the gymnastics teacher committed with the popular classes. But, it is essential to get deeper into the discussions about the modification processes in capoeira’s core that culminated in the predominantly sportive approach nowadays. We agree with Falcão (1996, p.32) when he points out that the "capoeira’s languages and codes structural changes" should be carefully studied, because "as a popular cultural manifestation, should not be seen under the viewpoint of traditional approaches that reduce it to a simple by-product, denying the dynamics inherent to cultural manifestations".

    Capoeira, as sport, folklore, art and fight with a typical Brazilian origin, is one of the inexhaustible sources of educational experiences in our popular culture, as long as it is treated as a pedagogical practice that considers " ... movement and rhythms richness that sustain it, and the need of not taking it apart from its history, simply transforming it into another "sport modality" (Coletivo de Autores, 1994, p.76). In this sense, we realize that our engagement in this discussion should contribute to enlarge the possibilities of a significant intervention in groups that develop works using capoeira, acting as "professional mediators". We hope to promote the beginning of a "pedagogical complicity", where different but not antagonistic kinds of knowledge establish complementary relations,

"meanings exchange relations from part to part, with a political significance expressed: develop pedagogical situations of mutual transference of knowledge, meanings, values, capability and reflection instruments; establish as their targets the participation in the process of awareness, politicizing and political mobilization of popular groups and movements." (Brandão, 1985, p.17).

    Mediation of existing shocks in the events of professionals that work with capoeira will take place through the confrontation of ideas about the different possibilities of pedagogical approach of its "multiple discursiveness". It is not scope of this work the discussion about the legitimacy of one or other game "style", opposing the characteristics that would be inherent to Capoeira Angola and / or Capoeira Regional, because we believe that capoeira nowadays, with an intense development of new techniques of game and training and a strong interaction of capoeira’s academies (...), does not allow us to treat the present universe of this community as divided in Regional and Angola (Vieira, 1996, p.88). This fact confirms the importance of, besides fighting capoeira, "lazing capoeira", "joking capoeira" and / or "playing capoeira" (what reminds us of the playfulness that we believe that should be brought back in the circles), studying capoeira without trying to capture it in a linear and "non-historical" approach.

    In recent years, due to the participation in the various capoeira’s sportive events, we noticed some contradictions and conflicts related to the occurrence of these events, that, in our opinion, should be considered as legitimate spaces to the learning of many kinds of knowledge related to our "Brazilian art". If this does not occur, we notice the dissatisfaction with these events that usually do not go from the existing reality to the desired reality through its actions guidance. We judge that the relevance to broaden our understanding about these Events; their meanings, effectiveness and perspectives, resides in the possibility of contributing to Capoeira’s traditions, rituals and history maintenance and a better understanding of the modifications occurred in its practice.

    According to Aurélio Buarque de Holanda Ferreira (famous Brazilian lexicographer) (1993), the word "Event" means eventuality, happening, success. In conformity with the exposed we can infer that, when we refer to the occurrence of an event developed by a capoeira group, or one of its cores, we will participate in a very representative moment to its attendees and, furthermore, that the success expectation of such moment is common to all of those that take part in the group. But, to make the event real is under the participants’ direct responsibility and, more specifically, the Graduate and / or Master that is responsible for the coordination of each core. The continuous evaluation of cultural, pedagogical and sportive practices developed by the group becomes essential to our success in the continuing events that, although occurring in an isolated way, in each core, mean, or should mean a collective acting concept. The importance of evaluating this question resides in the fact that we can, through the assignment of value to our future acts, go back, with a quality upgrade, to the path of our walk. Trying to cooperate in this way, within our limitations in the understanding of this broad and complex Capoeira’s social, political and cultural universe, we try to point out, as follows, some questions that we think that are relevant to those teachers and Masters whose main concern in their work is to preserve this national cultural demonstration.

A reflection proposal: Capoeira’s events participatory planning

    Planning traditional approaches point out to an acting that contributes to perpetuate social disparity, because attributes an exclusively technical character to the act of planning, not taking under consideration the logic of the mentioned group. Presented by an out-of-reality discourse that considers technique as a factor to assure projects and plans success, educational planning has not been able to achieve its real expectation, that is: qualitative change of educational processes produced by a determined group in order to change a non-satisfying reality.

    In the recent years, the attempts to focus planning in a methodologically different way, not only in a purely economical, pedagogical or multi-disciplinary approach, but also decentralizing and turning regional the administration, made clear the existing "disharmony" between the planning proposals and Brazilian educational reality (Sobrinho, 1994).

    Participatory Planning has proved to be one of the most feasible choices of conducting a collective acting proposal driven to democracy and social equality of different working groups. The definition of Mission of each group that begins to believe in the importance of their work; the standard of Quality desired for their work and the different distribution of Power, are the pillars of this planning proposal. After setting these criteria, it is possible to define the actions that the group will take in order not to differ from these assumptions and evaluation processes that will confirm in which way the predetermined targets are being reached (Gandin, 1994).

    Considering that a capoeira group shows its works specially through different kinds of events that will confirm its acting proposal in the endless corporal, rhythmical and historical universe of capoeira’s art, we point out below some propositions derived from participatory planning that, we believe, will contribute to clarify some questions that we think that were interpreted in a diffuse way in the participants’ comments from most sportive events that happened in this area.

    First of all, we would like to expose some important aspects to analyze the different meanings that can be attributed to an Event inside a group. Considering the existing variety in each core and, even more in the group as a whole, it is fundamental that we take into consideration the multiple representations that may have an event achievement. So, to know these representations is the events basic condition to minimally consider the expectations of different group members. Consequently, it is also essential to conciliate the Mission on which a group is based and the various work proposals made by cores pertaining to the group, therefore, included the events. Considering as example the Baptism and / or the Cords Delivery (Batizado e / ou Entrega de Cordas) as the core pertaining to a capoeira group most relevant work moment(s), that should publicly present all the accumulated production in a determined period, we question: In face of the Mission established for the group, what is the understanding that we have of "Event"?

    Second, we believe that each event fulfillment will occur in a different way, because they have incompatibilities among them that should be considered. For example, a Promotional Circle does not have the same targets to be achieved as Baptism and / or Cords Delivery. By its turn, a Presentation will target other purposes related to the different kinds of activities done by a capoeira group. We propose that the group should define the targets, the specific characteristics and the desired quality level on each of these activities. To do so, we glimpse the movements done for these activities construction should not be the result of improvisation or arbitrariness of some members of the core in question or the teacher and / or Master responsible for the group. We believe that it is necessary for us to have four assumptions as our work Quality support pillars:

  1. efficiency - pedagogical and ethical ways definition that the group will follow driven to its participants expectations satisfaction;

  2. efficacy - competency presented by the group to achieve proposed targets and purposes;

  3. effectiveness - group commitment with the community in which it is inserted through the social role explicitness that it is proposed to act;

  4. relevance - cultural perspective and humanizing character explanation existing in the performance of the activities promoted by the group (Sander, 1995).

    Finally, we defend that it is necessary to establish, collectively (which implies Power distribution redimension), the parameters that will guide events profile that, according to its participants expectations, also contribute to settle a referential focal point that will guide the group actions. This vertex configuration will occur or not, in all group teachers (Monitors, Instructors and Masters) daily political and pedagogical practice. These possible change agents actions tend to provoke their students a representation on their belonging group. This image will be as close as possible to the intended one, the more conscious is the agents activity in order to confirm its achievement. So, to establish the central focal point that will make possible to us the new reality creation or, who knows, recreate it, reinvent it supported by the wish of better future for capoeira and for our society, we suggest that it is necessary to create collective spaces beyond the ones already existing. Our identity invention and reinvention spaces will last as long as the yearning for better days lasts and also all our actions guidance are followed by them. Consequently, we ask: Which are, or may be, the encounter and qualitative changes space agents existing in each core and in the group as a whole? Final considerations

    We reassure that this text proposal is to bring out to the agenda questions that bothers gymnastics teachers, capoeira players and Masters involved with capoeira practice. To confront the different ways of thinking of various professionals that work in this area means to direct them with the intention of broaden cohesion among those that have the same target as channel of dialog: capoeira preservation as Brazilian culture interpretation. It is important to emphasize that we do not perceive the existing conflicts as "natural", thus inseparable. They indicate the need for our immediate attitudes reflection, reordering them in search of collective well being, because only here we find reason to live capoeira as, paraphrasing the Javanese when they say that "To be human is to be Javanese", we would dare to say that "To be Brazilian is to be Capoeira".


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