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Capoeira Wiki-Word of the Week: Mandinga (Update)

This feature is designed to spark your interest in researching the world of capoeira's vocabulary, history, and philosophy.

Our Capoeira Wiki-Word series invites you to research the word of the week and post your definition(s) and translations. At the end of each week, the entries will be reviewed and then summarized into a translation and a definition of the Capoeira Wiki-Word of the week.

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Xerife brings us this definition from Dicionário Online de Português


Significado de Mandinga / The definition of Mandinga

Indivíduo dos mandingas, raça de negros cruzada com elementos berbere-etiópicos (os mandingas eram considerados grandes mágicos ou feiticeiros).Língua muito falada na África ocidental. 

An individual of the mandingas  , a race of negros mixed with  Berber-Ethiopian elements (the mandingas were considered great magicians or sorcerers).
Language widely spoken in West Africa.


Espantalho brings us this insight from Mestre Marcelo Caveirinha founder of Capoeira Mandinga.  Mestre Marcelo brings exacty the kind of insider knowledge that sheds beautiful light on the meaning of the word Mandinga from their school's website


"Mandinga in the capoeira environment means, amongst many things, the hidden power that one has to disguise their real intention and to trick the opponent. It is a way to invoke some forces to blur the opponent’s vision of reality almost like hypnotizing him/her into a trance-like state so that they can’t see what is coming. It can also be magic like a trick that confuses and distracts the opponent. However, much more than any of the above meanings.

The word mandinga has a very special meaning as a way of referring to capoeiristas that are very expressive in their game and know how to embellish their jogo* with beautiful and impressive gestures. These gestures are sometimes very theatrical, sometimes like a primitive dance, and sometimes imitate all kinds of animals (e.g. monkey, jaguar, snake, eagle, bull, and many others).

When a capoeirista is reffered to as being a "mandingueiro" it can be considered as one of the highest complements that could be given. It implies that one is experienced and mature with a good sense of humor and yet dangerous and not to be fooled by the appearances. Sometimes the word mandinga is also used to imply that someone put a spell on a player and for that he/she can’t play well or is not doing well in some senses. For example, a person might make a comment after realizing that he/she is not having a good day by saying "Jogaram mandinga em mim" meaning "someone put a spell on me" (that’s why I am not succeeding on my endeavors). This meaning is metaphorical but used frequently in a positive way as when we say "ele tem mandinga no jogo" meaning that he has mandinga in his game. In other words, his game is rich and expressive, difficult to figure it out, but easy and great to appreciate.

I would risk saying that besides the word capoeira and ginga, the word mandinga must be the next most used word in capoeira songs and literature. This word is intimately related to malícia** and axé*** which are also words of exquisite and intriguing meanings. However, malícia and axé are qualities that can be separated from mandinga, but mandinga can not be separated from them. For in order to have mandinga, you have to have malícia and axé. On the other hand you could have axé or malícia but lack having mandinga. To have mandinga incorporates having axé and malícia as well.

Mandinga is a powerful, meaningful word that helps to rescue the essence of the spirit of capoeira and for that reason after doing an extensive research to find out if there was any group using this name, I decided to use it for our group because to my surprise there were no other Capoeira Mandinga groups in the world. Since in the capoeira world we try not to copy anyone else and instead to be creative and unique, the name Mandinga gave us the honor to be associated with the biggest interest I have always had in capoeira, which was to rescue the expression and the spirit of the art.

Axé, Dendê, Malícia, and muita Mandinga!"

~ Mestre Marcelo

   Founder of Capoeira Mandinga