Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Physical art form teaches discipline and confidence

Capoeira Angola ministers to needs in neighborhood

Laura Kaslow
More than 400 years ago, a unique art form that today has become a catalyst
for peace was formed. Called Capoeira Angola, this Brazilian cultural art form
combines elements of dance, music, and martial arts between participants
and observers. It now is practiced in 150 countries worldwide.
Capoeira Angola was born out of the experience of enslaved Africans who
were brought to Brazil during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. A newer form,
called Capoeira Regional, was created about 70 years ago. The game was
recognized as an “instrument of peace” by the United Nations while Kofi
Annan served as secretary-general.
On December 12-14, the Minneapolis branch of the international
organization that advocates Capoeira Angola, called Grupo Acupe, will
celebrate this unique practice through a “Weekend Encounter” event. Created
as a social project, Grupo Acupe was formed to show “capoeira in its right
form to open the door to other communities,” according to Erika Schlaeger
Dos Santos, a teacher of Capoeira Angola in Minneapolis.
Grupo Acupe has served its respective neighborhoods throughout Brazil and
the United States for more than 20 years. Grupo Acupe came to Minneapolis
in 2003 through the vision of the Rev. Kelly Chatman, senior pastor at
Redeemer Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis. An initiative of the Redeemer
Center for Life, Grupo Acupe is one way the church serves as a “beacon of
hope” to its community in the Harrison neighborhood, according to the
Redeemer Web site.
“Pastor Kelly recognized this ministry and found a way to have it … at the
Peace Palace [located down the block from Redeemer Lutheran],” Dos Santos
“Pastor Kelly has a vision of the way different art forms can mobilize youth …
[offering them a] different place to go .… That is his objective and he has
dutifully put forth that mission.”
The Minneapolis group is honored to welcome the man widely known as the
father of Capoeira Angola, Mestre Vicente Ferreira Pastinha to Weekend
Encounter. Introduced to the art form as a child by an older African man in
his neighborhood, Mestre Pastinha went on to lead the first Capoeira Angola
academy, which opened in 1942.
Joining Mestre Pastinha will be Mestre João Pequeno, who is the world’s
oldest living mestre of Capoeira Angola. (Mestre is an official title for
advanced practitioners of Capoeira Angola, as well as the Portuegese word for
“master.”) At age 90, Pequeno continues to teach at his academy, which is
located in the historical center of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Mestre Pequeno is
said to be “indisputably the most recognized figure with an unparalleled story
in the history of Capoeira,” according to Mestre Marrom, a Capoeira Angola
teacher in Minneapolis.
Along with these men who are modern-day legends of this trans-Atlantic
slave-era art form, two guest speakers will take part in the weekend
celebration. Performer, educator, and lecturer Yolanda Williams will talk about
music in the African diaspora. Dr. Edward Powe, a student of Capoeira Angola
under Mestre Pastinha, will also speak. A Capoeira Angola workshop will be
held, giving attendees the opportunity to learn the basics of the art form. In
addition, the event will be a chance for students from Afrocentric Academy,
who have been studying Capoeira Angola during the past semester through a
partnership with Grupo Acupe, to experience a culmination of what they’ve
been learning.
Members of Grupo Acupe hope families will attend this event together, noting
that they’d “love to see parents register with their children,” said Marrom.
The event is open to children, adolescents, and adults — men and women of
any age. They say those who “don’t learn in this art form are those who don’t
want to learn.”
The Weekend Encounter costs $70 for the full weekend or $40 per day. The
price includes a dinner. Children do not pay for the event. Mestre Marrom
explains that they “have never charged children or teens … Adults, well, we
all have to help.” They also note, as is true of their ministry of the open door
to the neighborhood, that they will not turn anyone away.
The Grupo Acupe is still seeking sponsors to help with the event. For more
information on the event and/or sponsorship opportunities, e-mail Erika
Schlaeger Dos Santos at
Capoeira Angola classes are taught at the Peace Palace, 1830 Glenwood
Avenue North, Minneapolis, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on Mondays and
Wednesdays and at 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
Further information on the Grupo Acupe can be found at