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Meet Amar, Changemaker fellow, from Pakistan to Peru

Capoeira for communities with limited access to education

Amar has always been a humanitarian. From his experience living and growing up in Pakistan and his recent experience living and working in Peru, he has been focused on showing the positive impact that capoeira can have on women and children. In Pakistan though, it has been a difficult endeavour given all the cultural barriers. Even so, Amar says:

“Capoeira is a transformational art of self-expression. It teaches positive living through inclusion in community as well as physical and mental creativity and agility. It becomes particularly relevant to developing personal and social skills in vulnerable children with no access to such education.”

Nonetheless, Amar says that things are slowly changing for the better as education becomes more accessible to all and with renewed efforts, there will be more girls and women playing and teaching Capoeira in Pakistan as time goes by.

“I am sure that Peruvian and Brazilian female Capoeira teachers will be instrumental in helping to address this shortfall in conjunction with Pakistani female student Capoeira teachers.”

How Capoeira and Pakistan fell in love

Amar first introduced Capoeira to Pakistan in 2007 as the pioneering teacher of this art, back when no one had any idea what it was. There was no cultural frame of reference beyond the acrobatics, music or references to a Tekken character available to connect to this ritual for most Pakistanis. “Children and adolescents from the nearby slums or other impoverished areas who saw what I was doing seemed to intuitively understand the nature of the game. They would join in with myself and my students having fun, jumping and playing, making cartwheels and music and singing exuberantly. It was an amazing experience!”

This inspiring experience though underscored the harsh reality of children forced to grow old before their time so they could survive harsh conditions of living.

“It was for this reason that I became convinced that the need that this art and ritual could play a pivotal and positive role in their lives. Capoeira calls out to its own. Those who speak its language even though they have not been taught by any mentor. They have learnt Capoeira’s lessons themselves through life’s harsh experience.”

What does Capoeira mean for oppressed communities?

Above all, Amar believes that Capoeira is about liberation from the slavery and helplessness of poverty, from physical, mental and social limits, from discrimination and from lack of opportunity. It teaches profound life lessons through creative and spontaneous play in a collective and collaborative effort. It is a fight but is “played” to music and thus becomes cooperative as well as competitive. It is very much about staying in the moment and being aware and responsive and yet the songs reference a living heritage that is infinitely varied and yet distinct in its interpretation. Playful and adaptive.

“A wonderful paradox that has kept me deeply curious about Capoeira since I started playing almost 20 years ago. I have seen the same delight as mine on students faces as they discover more about what Capoeira is and what it means to them. A game that offers a respite from their daily struggles where they can recover the spontaneity of childhood games. In so doing they find a chance for an education and inclusion within a safe and encouraging community so they can learn and grow as part of something positive on their way to becoming productive and healthy members of society.”

Since that beginning over a decade ago, Amar has personally ensured that Capoeira in Pakistan grows into the small nascent community of students and student-teachers from all walks of life present today. Orphans, diplomats, refugees, artists, students, business people, street children, professionals, foreigners, musicians, teachers and locals all training and performing together and collectively learning as part of a diverse community that not only accepts differences but knows they are a strength and not a weakness. Readily accepting huge social differences inside and outside the roda, a space where only your ability to have fun and your skills and smile matter. Unity in peaceful community living.

“I have been lucky enough to experience much of the world through Capoeira and I have done all I can to help others progress on their way as good friends and teachers have helped me along this path. Being a Changemaker Fellow will help me to achieve my dream of dedicating myself to utilising the transformational power of Capoeira in changing the lives of those who need and understand it.”

 

Global mission, local action

To the dispossessed and marginalised wherever he may be able to reach out to them through his work. Capoeira is most meaningful and useful to those who suffer prejudice and injustice. The mission is still the same as it ever was, though now Amar is part of a global network that can do so much more then he or his students ever could on their own.

Amar is currently working in Peru and collaborating with other Peruvian Angoleiros who share a common vision of growing an active community of Capoeira Angola engaged with social work. Connecting Brazil, Peru and Pakistan through cultural and educational exchange. After initiating and establishing work in Peru, he looks forward to returning home to Pakistan to expand and fortify the links between and within Latin America and South Asia inside the roda of Capoeira.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and I’m happy to be able to participate in every way I can with others in a collective effort towards using this art for fortifying vulnerable children and forming resilient, productive and happy young adults. We all need peace in our lives. Capoeira is a creative and relevant social tool to teach and preserve peace culture to all. Axé.”