PEOPLE OF WATERBEAR: RASHA SHAHEEN
I was born in Kuwait to Egyptian parents and moved to Bangor in N. Wales aged 3. At age 9 we moved to Saudi Arabia, because of my Dad’s work. Saudi is (Rasha pauses and chooses her words carefully and finally decides on..) patriarchal. Women weren’t allowed to drive or vote when I was there. Plus, they didn’t nurture creativity as it was a ‘call to the devil’. It felt unfair and it turned me into a rebel, however I was a rebel that got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and ended up rebelling on my own health…
Anyway, at 17 I had a chance to get back to the UK to study. I did everything a teenager did, just a bit compact. I had a lot of fun and the parties took over from the studying. One day I got a knock on the door, it was the police. I was in the UK on an Egyptian passport with a student visa and they wanted to deport me for not attending college. Biggest reality wake-up ever as I had no idea how fragile my passport was and just thought I was like any of my friends who were also experimenting with occasionally bunking off college.
I appealed and at the same time I began to question my identity. The appeal went on for two years. In the meantime, on the way to Glastonbury via Bristol I met a band called The Moonflowers, they taught me how to play music. it was like WOW; my freedom of expression had begun. I started to play in bands and tour, but it couldn’t go anywhere because of this deportation thing, so I decided to leave first and sort out my papers, before they kicked me out.
I went back to Egypt and it took three years before I could get back the UK. I came back with a quest for all things music. I was searching for the answer to the question ‘What do I need to know to keep this expression going?’ I did a music technology BTEC, a degree, 2 masters and I played in umpteen bands, usually about 5 bands at once. I put on shows and tour managed and also taught music (performance, technology, culture and business). It was a holistic approach to quench my thirst for knowledge.
Interestingly, teaching gradually took over as my passion. Teaching kept teaching me plus it felt like a gig and I could really challenge peoples, and my own, ideas. I became obsessed with the next question which was ‘how can we flourish?’ I wanted to know how humans could sustainably self-actualise which is what I’ve ended up focusing on in our Masters programme.
In our Masters, we get to explore sustainability in the creative industries. We define our own measures of success, explore our values and what motivates us and unpack the reality of our ever-changing industry. With this foundation we visualise our chosen future and design the steps we need to get there?
Our current masters students are about to hand in their final submission and what I’ve learnt from them is that there are just no boundaries in terms of possibilities. The jump of knowledge, potential and confidence in their future has been … just amazing and a privilege to witness!