Zaynab Mohammed: A poet who listens to others

As part of BC Culture Days (CULTURE DAYS) events taking place from September 23 to October 16, 2022, the organization has named a small number of ambassadors who have enriched the region through their art .

The Source had the opportunity to speak to one of them, Zaynab Mohammed, an award-winning poet, who lives in the Slocan Valley.

Her poetry took off during a spoken word workshop in 2013, leading her to continue exploring this medium through workshops, classes and practices. Open mics and poetry slams were his gateway into the world of poetry. In 2014, she started writing poems on her typewriter Baby Blue Smith Corona during the Halifax Buskers Festival. She is the recent winner of the Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers. Her verses have become the lyrics of songs she writes and accompanies with her guitar. Zaynab Mohamed lives in the woods of the Slocan Valley with her dog Threshold.


“All my life, I wanted to know what it is to listen. I started to listen to myself, to others and to the earth. Is listening the same for everyone? asks the poet. This questioning of listening is key in his songs as in his poetry.

“I came to poetry by accident. Ten years ago, I backpacked around the world because I wanted to find out what I didn’t know and learn in a different way than the way I had been taught. It was really a catalyst for me. I learned to be more confident and to learn to love myself. It was truly a journey of empowerment and self-discovery. I did not know what I was going to become but since then, I have never stopped writing”.

Zaynab Mohammed, a British Columbia poet and artist.

A mixture of curiosity and courage pushes her to discover a better life.

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“I didn’t know any happy people around me and I was hungry for a happy life, I wanted to find out how to get there. I believe I discovered it through my poetry and my art because it helped me to have a relationship with the whole”.

And, one thing led to another, Zaynab Mohammed became known to a very local audience.

“My breakthrough happened when I showed up on the street where I live, with my blue typewriter, sitting at my desk. Passers-by loved seeing me and listening to me. It was a kind of show stopper,” she exclaims.

Duty of memory, understanding the present

Zaynab Mohammed does not forget her parents’ past.

“I am of Arab origin, my parents were immigrants in Vancouver. Arabic is my mother tongue. I write in English, but writing in Arabic is at the top of my list. My parents lived through the wars and the terrible years under the regime of Saddam Hussein,” she explains.

“I was born in Canada and therefore I have never suffered from their difficulties. That’s why I feel a great responsibility to use my voice to create a space to heal, a common joy to share. »

His Arab origins, however, caused him concern.

“Did I feel uneasiness among the people I meet because I am an Arab? Yes, since my childhood. I think people are afraid of what they don’t know. As a result, I experienced a lot of discrimination, and this forces me to continuously reflect on myself,” she explains.

Although a large part of her wants and needs to understand, Zaynab Mohammed has decided to live in peace with who she is: “I realized at some point that I will never fully understand the human condition”.

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Her upcoming efforts are currently focused on a documentary and listening project to be presented at the Pacific Theater in Nelson. “I am also in the process of creating a One Woman Show based on my listening project. This will be an experimental show mixed media “which I hope will be ready in the spring,” she says.

If he had to send a message to his readers and his audience, Zaynab Mohammed would say: “A lot of people have told me that art is difficult. And it is. It’s hard, but I don’t know what else I want to do, and I’m grateful that I was born an artist.

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