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Live slowly!

June 2, 2010 1 comment

“Live slowly!

Move simply!

Look softly!

Allow emptiness!

Let the heart create for you!”

I was hot-desking at work today and landed myself in front of the above quote.  There was no author or artist identified, but my guess is Leunig.  I’m adding it here to balance out my previous post (if you missed it, it was a desperate plea for the light at the end of the tunnel).

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Recent article published on 4capoeirathoughts.com

The below article was something I wrote for publication on the 4capoeirathoughts.com site (site also listed on my blogroll).  It is based on the ideas I explore in my project plan and I thought I’d also share them here.

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The more I learn about capoeira the more I discover how its philosophies can apply to the field of community development. For me, a cornerstone of community development work involves creating a more socially inclusive society – one where individuals are able to participate fully in social and economic life. In Australia, it’s encouraging to see this vision being supported by the federal government’s Social Inclusion Agenda. What’s even more exciting though, are the possibilities I see for us at the individual level to use the principles that capoeira give us to actually live out this vision of a more socially inclusive society. I’m not sure how well I can actually explain what I mean by this, but I’ll give it a go!

Sometimes I find it helpful to flip things around the other way (a bit like seeing the world upside-down when we’re doing ‘bananeiras’). Instead of focusing on inclusion, we can examine the concept of social exclusion. In broad terms, social exclusion is often associated with economic deprivation, identity differentiation, or physical, cultural, sociological, or other barriers to full participation within society (Geddes, 1998). It can impact an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being and exacerbate the state of fragmentation within society. I’ve tried to depict this below in the form of a ‘problem tree’ (concept adapted from Veneklasen & Miller, 2008, p. 155), that shows possible root causes and consequences of social exclusion.

By using elements of music, rhythm, dance and martial arts, and also with a focus on mutuality over the win/lose mentality common to many sports, the art of capoeira can be used as a tool for fostering stronger inter-relationships and greater understanding between individuals. Pictorially, this might look a bit like the below ‘solution tree’ which depicts how I see the root elements of capoeira are combined to generate positive social outcomes.

Moreover, capoeira was forged through deep inter-cultural interactions between African descendants (from diverse Nations), Brazilian Indians, and exiled Europeans. It has, since its inception, been used by these marginalised slave populations as an instrument against oppression. As an art-form, it has equipped its participants with strong values of social cohesion and resistance against colonial exploitation.

Having withstood centuries of oppression, capoeira now enjoys formal recognition by the Brazilian government1 and is practised globally2. I believe that this in itself is testimony to the strength of capoeira as a mechanism for social integration. These historical foundations demonstrate to me the value of using capoeira today as a recreational activity that can empower individuals falling outside of the mainstream to engage more deeply with their immediate and surrounding communities. Vice versa, capoeira also creates opportunities for greater social and cultural diversity and fosters a deeper sense of connectedness within ‘mainstream’ society itself.

So…what all of this suggests to me is that there is an element of commonality between community development practitioners and capoeira practitioners as each engage in activities that can build stronger communities. For community development practitioners, this involves a subset of activities that use art and recreation to improve the quality of life of individuals experiencing disadvantage or exclusion. For capoeira practitioners, I believe this involves the use of capoeira to foster stronger community cohesion rather than (or in addition to) practicing capoeira as an end in itself.

Applying this to the field of community development, I think it’d be wonderful if we can foster greater collaboration between community organisations and the capoeira community. I envisage that, by forming and nurturing these connections and continuing the work we already do, we can create more opportunities for disadvantaged or marginalised communities to access Capoeira-based recreational programs. This can ultimately enhance the impact of the work we each do while also enabling each of us to live out, in a very personal and practical way, our vision for a more socially inclusive society right here in Brisbane.

Notes:

1 – The official recognition came first in the 1950s during the government of President Getúlio Vargas. The first federal policy, however, was developed under the folder of the Ministry of Culture and came only in 2004. The federal government continues to develop this programme and today it is called Capoeira Viva.

2 – In 1998, According to Assunção (2005) ‘conservative estimates suggested that already 3 million people around the world were practicing Capoeira, a number that has been growing ever since’ (pp. 1-2).

4CapoeiraThoughts Note:

Along the lines of Janelle’s post I suggest you read the following posts:

1 – Project Learning from Brazilian Culture: A Brief History, Profile and Guidelines

2 – The Social Role of Capoeira: An invitation to make local sense of a cultural practice in global spreading

If you would like to share similar initiatives and/or successful social endeavours with Capoeira, contact me and we will post it. Sharing material and experiences through the blog will network like-minded people, helping people to establish their programmes and/or supporting ongoing initiatives.

References:

Assunção, M. 2005. Capoeira: The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art. NY. EUA: Taylor & Francis Inc.

Geddes, M. 1998. Local Partnership: A successful strategy for social cohesion?European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin.

Veneklasen, L. & Miller, V. (eds.). 2008. A New weave of power, people and politics: the action guide for advocacy and citizen participation, Burton on Dunsmore, UK: Practical Action Publishing, pp.147-162.

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End-semester chaos

May 29, 2010 5 comments

I was in Darwin all of last week and have just come back from three days in Sydney.

Observation: Have noticed a serial raincloud following me from one end of the country to the other.

Vent: Why doesn’t work send me on cool trips when I DON’T have anything due?!

Positive affirmation (attempt #1): The universe gives me ample opportunity to find the silver lining.

Positive affirmation (attempt #2):  If even Darwin can get rain in their dry season, anything is possible!

Message to fellow students:  Hang in there! It’ll all be over soooooooon!

'Minties moment' creatively captured by photographer, friend, musician and all round top guy, Gary Cox

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Listen to some capoeira songs!

May 13, 2010 3 comments

I found some MP3s courtesy of http://www.capoeirajacobina-arte.com and thought I’d share them with you 🙂

A HORA E ESSA

RODA MARAVILHOSA AUAUE

ME LEVA NA BAHIA

MARINHEIRO SOU

The beauty of capoeira lies also in the music – and this is something that I’m learning more about with each day.  If you’re free Monday 24th May, make and share some music with us at our workshop on how we can use capoeira to build stronger, more vibrant communities!

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To whom I write these words

May 12, 2010 3 comments

camouflage-notIt’s been ten weeks already since the start of the semester – and, no, that’s not because I can count, but it’s thanks to the reminders I got from fellow ‘communiteers’ I’ve been emailing via our virtual (‘Blackboard’) classroom tonight.  But, yes, ten weeks into the semester and I’m still feeling uneasy about blogging and the whole action-learning cycle.  The business and marketing philosophies that have been conditioned into me are telling me that to get ‘buy-in’ for my project, I should fill this space with ‘stuff that sells’  – pretty pictures? ‘Come one come all’ slogans? Big promises and even bigger disclaimers?   – Besides the pretty pics, I haven’t used this site as an overt marketing tool as such and I think this is both a source of comfort and a source of my unease.  It does feel a tad exposing and quite unnatural to me to use this site both as a space for personal reflection and as a medium for sharing information about the project.   At the back of my mind I can’t help thinking I’ve gone against all common sense by uploading wordy project plans, calls for help, and reflections about my dilemmas that give away all too clearly the constant state of confusion I’m in!  Nevertheless, I persist – I’m trusting that, with a sound analysis and a strong rationale, the theories and ideas I adopt can translate into praxis.  I’m trusting that on the other side of my discomfort will be discovery and I’m hoping beyond hope that you, the reader, will not lose faith in me!

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Escapism

May 12, 2010 1 comment

Children Under The Sky – Capoeira At Al-Tanf

In the video at the link above, one of the children tells us that, “when they started to play capoeira, it made me happy”.  This simple yet powerful statement pretty much sums up my thoughts on capoeira today.

It’s nearly 1am.  I got home a few hours ago and now find myself tapping away on my laptop after what has been for me a long and rather confronting day.  Oh, okay, I was hoping I could write vaguely about this, but I’ll spit it out: I got a nasty shock this morning when I got back a dismal result on an assessment for one of my uni subjects.  I had managed to completely miss the point of the assignment and thought (pretty childishly might I add!) that this sort of stuff simply ‘never happens to me’.  Of course, I then proceeded to liken this result to something akin to catastrophe and extrapolated from this that my life must be a colossal failure.  My only saving grace was that the extent of my emotional turmoil was kept hidden in the confines of my own head.

Being a Tuesday night, I headed off to capoeira after uni.  Only now that I am home do I realise that the moment I had arrived at capoeira my mind had quite naturally moved there too.  My woes of the day had disappeared without me noticing – until, of course, I got back home and decided to let myself indulge in, erm, let’s  just call it a moment of self-deprecation…I’ve thankfully re-discovered perspective and, even more thankfully, have been reminded of how a spot of capoeira can make me deliciously happy.

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Momentum!

I have almost lined up a venue for the upcoming workshop and will be able to give people some more concrete details soon.  I feel I have been a tad premature in ‘advertising’  this workshop (even before I’d figured out the details!) but, for better or worse, it has kept everyone in the loop.  Today, I spoke to some wonderful people from the Communities for Children and the Pathways to Prevention projects and earlier this week I also had some very fruitful conversations with staff from the ‘Street to Home’ team at Micah Projects.

Out of these conversations came more ideas and suggestions and contact details of other people I can connect with –  As much as I’d like to cover as much ground as possible, I’m staying with the targeted approach for the moment, given the time constraints!

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