The University of KwaZulu-Natal is very proud to be partnering, for the second time, with the Andrew Mellon Foundation in which the university plays host to various prominent invited South African and African artists in an interface between arts academia and the desire to grow and support practice led disciplines. Yaseen Manuel, funded by Mellon, joins UKZN’s Drama and Performance Studies Programme (the dance stream) for a three-month residency to offer specialised classes and masterclasses. His residency is also shared with the Centre for Creative Arts’ JOMBA! festival as he showcases his own work alongside the premiere of a new screen dance collaboration with Durban’s Flatfoot Dance Company.

Yaseen Manuel - Photo by Val Adamson

Yaseen Manuel is a Cape Town born and based dancer. He is a skilled dancer and teacher and while he works as an independent artist, he is also a member of the ground-breaking integrated dance company Unmute Dance Company.  Manuel’s own Cape Town history and personal Muslim spirituality and legacy features prominently in his work and the South African dance community sat up and took notice of his work when he began a series of solos in 2016/17 that connected race, religion and ideas of masculinity in choreographed evocations of deeply neglected stories and identities in the South African landscape. His recent 2019 dance work Aslama, linked the Syrian massacre to a more internal battle for self and identity that was both terrifying and beautiful! Contemporary technique and improvisation form the base of his choreographic technique, but ever present is his neo-classical training.


Yaseen Manuel and Kieshia Solomon

Choreographed and performed by: Yaseen Manuel

Videographer/Filmmaker: Kieshia Solomon

Al-Kitab is the holy book we call the Qur’an. This dance film looks at the life of a contemporary South African Islamic dancer that finds himself torn between religion and his art. Having gained all the Qur’an’s knowledge and teaching as a young boy, I now question why I cannot comfortably merge being a dancer and living in Islam.


UNHINGED Choreographed by Yaseen Manuel Photo by Val Adamson

Choreographed by Yaseen Manuel

Videographer/Filmmaker: Kieshia Solomon

Dancers: FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY (Durban, South Africa) Sifiso Khumalo, Jabu Siphika, Zinhle Nzama, Mthoko Mkhwanazi, Siseko Duba, Sbonga Ndlovu, Ndumiso ‘Digga’ Dube.

This dance film narrates the four phases of an individual suffering with schizophrenia set against the backdrop of current South Africa. This is the journey of one person’s daily struggle of being unhinged from reality. We are poignantly faced with incoherent and illogical thoughts, hallucinations, delusions and abnormal behaviour. Is this mental illness or everyday reality?