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Profile: Sahara Shaheen Sahara shaheen is privately in a relationship with barthe cortes.. Don't you sometimes feel used by the press

about women
about eroticism
being a mother
and about timing wild cats

Interview with Sahara Shaheen - choreographer, co-director, and at the same time performer of one of the main roles in the "Awaken Child" musical.

by Erica Olda
november 2008

Sahara, at first, I would like to congratulate you on the success, because we can speak about such. The musical drew a strong response, which you could be convinced of during your talk with the listeners as a guest in the Kiss 100 radio. I listened to that programme when preparing to the today's interview. What do you think about the opinions that it is just another picture of a protest of an Arab woman, illustrating the tendency to emancipation?

At first glance, it may actually seem that we have to do with another story about rebellion of women deprived of the right to decide about their fates by the tradition. But this is also a story about wrong equating the tradition and the religion, where people treat religion as something that sanctions, justifies rigorous orders that are basic values for their tradition. Not the religion.

You have probably altered the first version of the scenario, cutting some rare scenes with men. Is it to symbolize that men are not important for an emancipated woman?

Absolutely not, just the opposite. This is a musical about women who live far from big cities, separated from their husbands. In some regions men go far away to look for earnings, the separation of husband and wife takes many years. Women who stay are condemned to their absence. In this story, men are important exactly because their absence, when cutting some scenes we wanted to emphasize it even more.

The musical refers to a myth..

Yes, this is a myth of an "awaken child". The myth has been accepted and codified by Koranic law. If the left women discover that they are pregnant, they exhort their children to be borne after the return of their husbands. However, the date of return and if it takes place, is an uncertain thing. Therefore, women go to a healer and then await the return of their husbands. Due to this, if the child is born many months or years after the husband left, they are not considered adulteresses - simply, the "sleeping child" finally "woke". In practice, this is a protection against cruel consequences, including death, taken by the society against unfaithful women. This faith is at the same time a gate to accept the fact that life must go on and men's power should be limited.

Halma, which you personate, is quite controversial. Do you privately identify yourself with Helma?

Halma is an anarchical person; she breaks the rules not waiting until somebody prohibits it to her. She rebels. She follows her real needs, she does not suppress them. She loves her husband, who left, however she has sex with another man, because she needs it physically. She wants to live. She dares to speak about it. And this is not mentioned there, in particular, as regards men who left. As though the problem wouldn't exist. She calls the things by their names, while others remain silent. Halma is close to me in many respects, I have also broken some rules in my life and I am not afraid to live my way. The world tends to perceive Arab women as passive and submissive objects of men's domination. This is not the full truth. The problem is when Arab women think this way about themselves and agree to it. The Arab world is subject to changes which take place rather at an evolutional than revolutionary pace, but they are consequent and stable. Women change in a similar manner; they are more and more aware and educated. The problem lies not in the Islam as the religion. Muslim theologians sometimes interpret Koran at their own discretion. In consequence, some people classify women as a minor creature that should be subject to a man. The Koran does not mention something like that.

The musical is very mistral, the nostalgic atmosphere prevails, it has beautiful moments, there is also much eroticism in it, were you not afraid of how it will be perceived?

No, I am a women, I have my sexual needs, I am not afraid of talking about it. Sex was not invented only for men.

You gave birth to a child as an unmarried woman, didn't you feel stigmatized?

Not only one child, but two , I am in a relationship, but I am not married. Certainly, if I lived in Saudi Arabia I would feel it more badly. Here, in Kenya, things look different, you know it yourself, but I would lie if I told you that I have never been hurt for that reason, but I have never nurtured pain, either. I know my value as a human being and as a woman. I do not agree for many things which the tradition I emphasize, not religion, tries to impose on me.

This year brought a lot of changes in your life, both professional and private ones, in particular you became mother for the second time, congratulations

Thank you.

You have done a lot of interesting things in your life as an artist and important things as a woman supporting women in Africa, but the press paid attention to it only as you began to go out with Barthe Cortes . Don't you sometimes feel used by the press as a gate through which Barthe Cortes can be reached *

(Laugh) It is difficult to deny it. I haven't met a journalist who would not ask about "BC" yet.

I know that you don't like to speak about it, but I have to ask about your relationship with Barthe, you have been through a lot of things recently, I mean, among others, shooting at the airport

I think that Barthe does not want me to talk about him.

So, you will disclose nothing at all about how it is to be with Barthe Cortes (laugh)?

Ok, I will tell you this, sometimes I feel as if I would domesticate a wild cat..

Thank you for the conversation

Thank you

Photograph: THE AFRICAN cover from which the part of the interview comes from.

* Sahara is privately in a relationship with Barthe Cortes, a controversial African businessman of French origin, owner of vineyards and an airport in Kenya. Recently she has given birth to his daughter; she is also a mother of a 3-year son from the previous relationship).

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