I discovered capoeira in Kinshasa in 2006 during a very short but intense one-week introductory course and this is where my desire to progress in this art began. The following year the batizado was held – the naming ceremony where we were given our capoeirista names. Yannick de Wouters, coordinator of my capoeira group in Kinshasa became Balafon, and I – Ninja.
We then founded the Abada Capoeira-Congo society to bring capoeira, free of charge, to young Congolese, especially children living on the streets. It is what led us to getting involved in the Capoeira for Peace.
Launched in August 2014, with the support of the HSH Princess Caroline of Monaco, UNICEF, the Embassy of Brazil in the DRC and AMADE-Mondiale, Capoeira for Peace introduces children formerly associated with armed forces and groups to the practice of capoeira to facilitate their reintegration into their communities in the province of North Kivu.
The training shows children that capoeira is a tool for liberation, not something that is purely physical, but a tool for liberating the mind.
As a sport, capoeira requires quite considerable physical effort and on occasion some people pull out because of this aspect. But young Congolese capoeiristas are not letting themselves be discouraged.
The Capoeira for Peace programme is almost unique in the world, but the virtues that children benefit from are universal: forming a family with all those around, loving one’s neighbour like a brother or sister, protecting and playing with him or her.
When you are a capoeirista you are a capoeirista in all aspects of your life. The values of the roda (the area in which capoeira is played), such as peace, equality, tolerance, respect and peaceful resolution of conflicts, must be respected at all times.
In particular, I try to convey respect and gender equality – in the capoeira family we are all equal.
Capoeira is a very powerful technology that greatly helps self-control and self-confidence. Two elements essential for developing hope. Then, the values of love and mutual respect become established in the capoeirista’s soul.
These values are what make this programme a vehicle for hope and peace for all who take part.
The first phase of the project is drawing to a close – more than 400 young people have trained with us in a succession of events. The most memorable was the International Day of Children’s Rights. That day, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we gathered all the people who train with us to run a class, open to all those who wished to come. In addition to our 87 students around 150 people participated in the event. It was a day full of energy, cheerfulness and sharing.
In the second part of the project, we are going to increase the follow-up with each of our students in order to better understand their history and see how this experience with capoeira whilst at the transit and orientation centre, has affected their lives before being reintegrated into their community.
We also wish to make the most of this new phase by enlarging the project. We have already started to organise several on-line activities with capoeira values: respect, equality and above all peace. (We will report on progress very soon).
Dieudonné is the United Nations national volunteer for the Capoeira for Peace pilot project in Goma. For him, Capoeira is a way to live, not only his job, but his passion. He tries to share with his energy with the kids, as well as his values of respect and love for the others. “Love is the engine of Peace”. This post translated from French by Daphne Wood