In the powerful, vibrant biography Game of Freedom, award-winning creator Duncan Tonatiuh sheds light on the legacy of a legendary capoeira player, Mestre Bimba, who resisted racial oppression through art and turned a marginalized practice into a global phenomenon.
A meia lua whooshed in the air. The strike was evaded and followed with an aú. Two young men were playing capoeira in the middle of the roda. Bimba wanted to play too.
Although it is debated when and where capoeira—an art form that blends martial arts, dance, acrobatics, music, and spirituality—originated exactly, one thing is certain: in the early 20th century, Brazil was the only country in the world where capoeira was played, and it was mainly practiced by people of African descent. In 1890, two years after Brazil officially abolished slavery, the game was outlawed. Wealthy, lighter-skinned society feared and looked down on capoeira, seeing it as a game for malandros—what people in power called the poor Black communities they disdained. But in the early 1920s in the city of Salvador, a man called Bimba advocated for capoeira, and those who practiced it, demanding they be treated with dignity and respect.
Duncan Tonatiuh’s lyrical prose and beloved full-color illustrations, inspired by pre-Columbian codices, tell the story of arguably the greatest capoeirista of all time, who fought to turn a misunderstood, persecuted Afro-Brazilian activity into a celebrated art practiced by millions around the world. In 2014, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named capoeira an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a distinction awarded because of the game’s promotion of social integration and the memory it holds of the struggle against historical oppression. From an award-winning author-illustrator, Game of Freedom is a stirring celebration of solidarity and resistance through art.
About the Author
Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is an award-winning author-illustrator. He is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and graduated from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College in New York City. His artwork is inspired by pre-Columbian art. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past but are relevant to today’s people, especially children. His books include A Land of Books, Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns, and Separate Is Never Equal. He currently lives in San Miguel with his family but travels in the United States often.
****STARRED REVIEW**** "The author/illustrator’s trademark pre-Colombian-flavored artwork lends itself wonderfully to the subject matter, with exaggerated poses and razor-sharp linework conveying body movements. A superb portrait of Afro-Brazilian endurance."—Kirkus