Different than the literal translation given by the Brazilian Portuguese dictionary, the word Mandinga has its own meaning in the capoeira world. The Aurelio dictionary translates the word mandinga as a “magic” or “spell.” In some senses that meaning applies to capoeira, but in a different context.
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 have 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 imitating all kinds of animals (e.g. monkey, jaguar, snake, eagle, bull, and many others).
When a capoeirista is reffered to as being a “mandingueiro” this 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”. 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 out, but easy and great to appreciate. Wikipedia
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!