Yasuke Kurosan

At the intersection of African and Asian cultures

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Choreographer and dancer Smaïl Kanouté presents a dance performance where he explores the aesthetic encounter between Africa and Asia, through the figure of Yasuke Kurosan (who the performance is named after), an enslaved African man who became the only black samurai in the history of Japan.

Inspired by the incredible fate of Yasuke Kurosan, an enslaved African man (originally from present-day Mozambique) who became the only black samurai in Japanese history, choreographer Smaïl Kanouté explores the sensitive and aesthetic encounter between Africa and Asia through the idea of merging of identities as artistic forms.

Drawing on martial arts, African warrior dances and urban dances, Kanouté has created a hybrid dance performed by culturally mixed performers. Through their bodies and their voices, it pays homage to bushido, the samurai code of honour, telling us the story of the metamorphosis of oppressed bodies into proud and uplifted ones. Between heritage, appropriation and self-creation, the choreographer paves the way for our identities to become.

We witness the recreation of a present from an unknown or imagined past, in light of the Afro-futurist movement.

«Yasuke Kurosan» is the second piece of a triptych questioning the Black community’s condition in different times and locations, and to a large degree dealing with the impact of colonialism and the persistence of ancestral rites as an affirmation of identity. «Never Twenty One – a tribute to young victims of firearms», and «So Ava– a re-interpretation of voodoo dances», are the first and third pieces. Each project develops into a short-film and a full choreographic performance.

The short film that came out of this project, «Yasuke Kurosan» by Smaïl Kanouté and Abdou Diouri (2020), 15′, will be on loop from 15:00 to 17:00 in Auditorium 3 with free admission.



Choreographic piece for 7 dancers, created in 2021/2022.

Choreographer Smaïl Kanouté
Dancers Aston Bonaparte, Felicia Dotse, Smaïl Kanouté, Kandé Magassa, Ndedi Ma Sellu, Salomon Mpondo-Dicka, Aisi Zhou
Artistic Collaborator Moustapha Ziane
Sound Designer Julien Villa
Set and Lighting Designer Olivier Brichet
Lighting Director Josselin Allaire
Sound Engineer Paul Lajus
Stylist/Costume Designer Xuly Bet
Silkscreen Printer Arthur Gourdin
Digital Artist Guillaume Stagnaro


Smail Kanouté is a French-Malian multifaceted artist based in Paris. He belongs to a young generation currently renewing visual codes and aesthetics in all possible disciplines. With Company Vivons! –founded in 2016– he develops performance projects, more personal choreographic artworks, dance-videos and short films. He's currently working on a dance web-docu-series project.


With the support of Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, as part of the New Settings programme



The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation reserves the right to collect and keep records of images, sounds and voice for the diffusion and preservation of the memory of its cultural and artistic activity. For further information, please contact us through the Information Request form.


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