Jabu Siphika and Mthoko Mkhwanazi perform a mesmerising duet in Manuel’s “Unhinged” (Photograph by Val Adamson)

Mesmerising dance explores themes of devotion and mental illness at JOMBA! 2021

By Georgia Kingsman


Through both Unhinged and Al-Kitab the themes of religion, mental health, and freedom are explored through the medium of dance, spoken word and movement on screen. Both an inspiring pleasure to watch; enhanced by the change of scenery, use of visual effects, and enchanting, tense soundscapes.

Al-Kitab draws on South African choreographer and performer Yaseen Manuels’ personal journey with his religion; he expresses his experience of being a Muslim in South Africa and plays with the connect and distance between both his religion and his dance. A series of bold statements captioned on a black background instantly grabs our attention — “How can I choose one? When I am both?”- highlighting for the audience what is in store for our experience through this digital dance piece. Filtered with a white-wash, and featuring signatures of white accents: the sand, the clothing, the flowers, the curtains… Could this be highlighting the how he connects both his dance and his religion? There is this sense of harmony in their combining; a sense of artistic freedom.

Unhinged is an exploration of the realities of schizophrenia expressed through dance. The beginning of the piece starts with layers of voices throwing back and forth, creating confusion at the outset. This gives the audience member a sense of what schizophrenia could feel like, the constant voices in an individuals’ mind (I would recommend listening to this piece with headphones in to experience the fullness of the layered soundtrack).

The duet between dancers Jabu Siphika and Mthoko Mkhwananzi is mesmerising! It captures, through the transitions from a solo to duet to solo to duet a sense of what could be schizophrenic experience — moving between extreme isolation and confusion across various states of the condition.

Both of these pieces are danced with such sensitivity by Manuel and Flatfoot Dance Company. Their themes highlighting some extremely raw subjects that are portrayed so humbly. Subjects taken straight from the experiences of the choreographer, able to tell moving stories that inspire. I look forward to following the choreographer and the dancers on their artistic journeys.



JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

25th annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 29 August – 10 September 2023