UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations system, has recently inscribed capoeira, the distinctive Afro-Brazilian martial art, on its list of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity."
This latest distinction is perhaps a culmination in the movement of capoeira, created by African slaves as a means of resisting oppression and nourishing bonds of community, from the shadows of Brazilian society into the clear light of respect and appreciation.
Incorporating sophisticated and subtle unarmed fighting techniques with rhythm, dance, and singing, capoeira is played by two people, encircled by other group members. It is beautiful and, as far as I know, unique in the way it associates music with combat.
Since I began playing several years ago, I have also found it to be physically and mentally quite demanding, challenging my conceptions of what my body can do and taking me to a new level of phyiscal fitness and emotional agility. It has been the means of developing new friendships, in the US and in Brazil, that have enriched my life. And it has nurtured in me a stronger feeling of connection to the African heritage of the Western Hemisphere.
So muito obrigado to the UN--the indispensable common house of humanity--and parabéns to capoeiristas everywhere, yesterday and today, for this important recognition of our art's intrinsic value.
Capoeira for the world!