Gangsta or Capoeira for Cape kids?

2010-10-10 15:54

The centuries-old Brazilian form of movement ­capoeira, which combines martial arts with dance, music and song, is helping to spread hope across Cape Town.

Over the past two years more than 100 kids in the poor and ­violent ­suburbs of Manenberg, Langa, ­Bonteheuwel, Delft and Abbotsdale have signed up.

The children attend free bi-weekly classes organised by the non-governmental organisation, Capoeira ­Educational Youth Association Project Description (CEYA), which has run classes since 2008.

The organisation, co-founded by South African Anna Versfeld and Angolan Marcio Lopes, uses capoeira to bring about positive change in participating children’s lives.

“I believe that my work should effect change. I recognise that we have a very divided society, and capoeira is a powerful tool for ­development,” says Versfeld, who is also studying for a masters degree in ­anthropology at the University of Cape Town.

Capoeira is regarded as a tool that teaches positive communication, ­respect for self and others, self-­regulation and discipline, say Versfeld and Lopes.

“There is the option of being a gangster or a capoeirista. Which one would they choose? They would rather choose to be a capoeirista,” says Versfeld.

In addition to classes, children ­also participate in demonstrations at schools and in other events.

This year’s demonstrations took place at Casa Little Brazil at Sea Point Civic Centre as part of World Cup celebrations.

The children also participated in the 2010 Children’s Capoeira ­Festival, where they received ­recognition for their hard work.

CEYA’s classes are unusual in that they have become a conduit through which a hybrid of skills is ­developed; from physical fitness to self-expression and conflict ­resolution.

Before the physical warm-up, the class engages in a circle-talking ­activity which gives them the opportunity to make themselves heard.

Whoever gets the key which is passed around gets to talk.

Many issues, ranging from HIV/Aids and racism to gang ­activity, come up in the conversations, says Versfeld.

“These are the very dynamics which children bring into the ­classroom with them.”

Bringing children from all five ­areas together once a month ­also bridges the racial and ­cultural divides between the ­communities.

Teachers and parents have ­also noted improved school ­results.

“Before, there was less concentration and it was hard to control them. Now there is less fighting and they relate better to each other,” says Lopes.

The children are also aware of what capoeira can do for them. “It’s all about friendship and about learning to protect ­yourself,” says 11-year-old Keith Malgas.

“Capoeira is a special place for children to stay off the streets,” says 14-year-old Nadine Lawrence.
– West Cape News


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