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This version was saved 12 years, 8 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Contramestre Café (Chanzo Greenidge)
on November 30, 2008 at 11:17:34 pm






(Dec 2,1933-Oct 17,2007)





(Article content adapted from Agogo Magazine (2001): http://www.agogo.nl/archive/int13-en.htm)


All's well that ends well. As does the story of Mestre Leopoldina. At an age ready to retire, he travelled twice this year to Europe to be the honoured guest at workshops, batizados and performances in Amsterdam, Paris, Hamburg, the South of France, England and Finland. Between these tours he accompanied Marrom (RJ) and Paulo 'Boa Vida' (RJ, Paris) on a trip to Senegal in order to plant the capoeira-seed there.


Leopoldina's lifestory starts less prosperously in Rio de Janeiro though. He didn't grow up with his own mother and therefore he was often beaten and neglected. At a certain age he decided to leave his home. He slept in trainwagons and made a living selling sweets at public places. He started to make up rhymes to enhance his selling and also started to sell in the trains. People say he was nicknamed after one of Rio's trainstations, but he states that his nickname was after a locomotive he used to imitate. Having lived like this for a while Leopoldina heard of a place were streetchildren were sheltered and fed. This made the struggle a bit easier.



Mestre Leopoldina and his inimitable style were celebrated at the 2nd NOVO Festival (2007) several weeks after his death.

NOVO Capoeira Festival 2007


Somewhere in 1952 or '53 at the age of nineteen was the first time Leopoldina encountered Capoeira. He saw a guy named 'Quinzinho' leaping from left to right, standing on his feet and next on his hands. Leopoldina thought:' Wow, I want to learn that stuff'. In order to do so he had to get nearer to his only example ( Capoeira had been prohibited till that time and was therefore nearly absent in public live). This guy Quinzinho was a 'malandro' as in: criminal. Just a month before he had been released after five years emprisonment. Leopoldina started to go to the bars frequented by Quinzinho and offered him beers.


One of those occasions all of a sudden Quinzinho grasped Leopoldina's hat challenging him to a fight. Leopoldina had a reputation as a streetfighter to live up to. But at every move he made, Quinzinho easily leaped away. Finally Leopoldina had to give up. He was scared, but knew he had to come up with something. He left for the place where he hid his knife. On his way someone, seeing how upset Leopodina was, stopped him to find out what was going on. Explaining him, Leopoldina spotted the boy to whom Qiunzinho had given the hat, still wearing it. Leopoldina took it back and strayed other routes for a while. One day he was waiting at the final stop for the bus to come. When it arrived, first six of Quinzinho's friends and finally Quinzinho himself came out.   When Quinzinho saw that all of his friends were happy to see Leopoldina again, he smiled and accepted him as part of the group. Now Leopoldina felt confident to reveal his wish to learn Capoeira. The first morning he arrived at Quinzinho's house in a favela, Quinzinho had already left. But from the next day on he came every day at seven to train with Quinzinho at the front of his house. Quinzinho would show him a movement and ask him to imitate it. Quinzinho didn't use any names for the movements.


(Mestre Leopoldina's journey in Capoeira reminds us of the need for flexibility and the roots of Capoeira in the survival tactics of the malandro)

Instituto Palmeiras Vision



After three or four months they could play together and Leopoldina was joining in Quinzinho's fame, cause he was the only one that could play with him. One day the two came across someone who could also play. This guy was called 'Juvenil'. He invited Leopoldina to come play a little. When Juvenil struck Leopoldina with a 'meia lua', Quinzinho pulled his gun and put it on Juvenil's head saying: "Don't do that. You will make him afraid to learn". One of the other adventures Leopoldina had with Quinzinho was when the latter made him drink a few shots of straight cachaça (sugarcane liquor) before training. It made Leopoldina so sick and dizzy, that he kept easy on the stuff for the rest of his life.  Finally Quinzinho got killed in a dispute over a woman. Now Leopoldina had to train by himself. He would do so on a soccerfield, very early in the morning: " Otherwise people would say I was some lunatic!"


(Mestre Leopoldina's sublime ladainha- Ganga Zumbi- is well-known by Mestres and capoeiras worldwide.  See below for more common ladainhas)



Ganga Zumbi (by Mestre Leopoldina)



Alguem me disse

Pareco Ganga Zumbi

Foi o rei la dos Palmares

Outros já me disseram

Que na outra incarnaçao

Eu era rico e muito rico


Eu tinha muitas fazendas

E grande canavião

Que eu era um bom patrão

So mulher eu tinha nove (2x)

Com a idade variada

Mais agora o que eu tenho

tenho casa pra morar nem sequer

Nem dinheiro pra gastar

Que é minha companheira

Essa grande amizade,

Dentro do meu coração,camara





Ganga Zumbi (English Translation)


Someone told me

I resemble Ganga Zumbi

He was the king there in Palmares

Others already told me

That in another incarnation

I was rich, very rich

I had a lot of farms

And a big stock

I was a good master

In wives alone, I had nine (2x)

Of different ages

But now what do I have

Not even a house to live in

Nor money to spend

But I have divine grace

Which is my companion

And that great friendship

In my heart, comrade



The next capoeirista whom Leopoldina met was called Artur Emidio. He was top performer at the Waldemar Santana Academy. The owner of the academy had heared that Leopoldina could play capoeira and invited him to come see the performance. Leopoldina enterred a new world on the day of that performance. At first he even wondered if Artur was gay. Leopoldina was used to the dressingcode of the malandros: wearing toeslippers and a scarve around his neck. The people at the academy were of different social standing. Though after Artur had done his solo, Leopoldina knew he had found a better player then Quinzinho. Artur had heard another capoeirista was present and invited him to come and play. Leopoldina made a good impression on Artur, cause he invited Leopoldina to come to his lesson. The new contacts Leopoldina made in this group got him a job of which today he's enjoying a pension. This is how capoeira got Mestre Leopoldina 'out of marginality into society.'




But the story hasn't ended yet. Leopooldina trained six years with Artur. He got to be the second man in the group. Then Artur encouraged him to start his own group. By this time Leopoldina had learned to read and found out something of African culture, so he called his group 'Bantus de Angola'. They would train in front of his house in a favela. With his group Leopoldina was asked to perform along with his favourite bloco at the Rio carnaval.  Every following year he would perform with a bigger group and have more succes. Despite of his fame and his eloquent way of clothing as he puts it, he found that the Capoeira Association was not accepting of him. Therefore he could find only one teacher to baptise the 18 students he had in his group in Sao Paulo. The second batizado he had 30 and Rafael Flores Viana, founder of the Senzala group was one to help him out. This is how a longlasting connection started. It brought Mestre Leopoldina in '89 to Europe and in '98 (and in 2000 and 2001) again.



The notes for this article were taken at Samara's annual summer workshop in Amsterdam and Paulo Siquera's summer meeting in Hamburg.








 Adapted from Agogo Magazine (2001): http://www.agogo.nl/archive/int13-en.htm


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