Meet the 2022 BC Culture Days Ambassadors!
Zaynab Mohammed (Slocan Valley)
Zaynab is an award winning Poet. Her poetry invocation took off at a spoken word workshop in 2013, leading her to continue exploring this medium of expression through workshops, courses and practice. Open mics and poetry slams were her gateway into the world of poetry. In 2014, she began to write poems on her baby blue smith corona typewriter at the Halifax Buskers Festival. This has transpired to her travelling poem booth, which has sustained her travels over the years. She is the recent recipent of the Richard Carver Award for emerging writers.
She is an Arabic woman. Her Arabic mother tongue is rooted in poetry. Zaynab was born in Vancouver, BC, to immigrant parents fleeing war torn countries. Inspired by the hardships her family endured, her writing touches on what is possible in the realms of healing and creating new ways forward.
Her verses have become lyrics to songs she writes with her pal guitar. All she has learned, she teaches to the younger generations at art camps and through the regional high schools.
She is a voice of the heart. Love. In a world that pretends to be cold. Her fire is art. Love. Burns the old. For we long to learn the beauty of bold truth. We long to be shaken. Rearrange reality with life force. Love. Living water longs for a new vessel. Stale containers could only hold us back for so long. Spill out, fill the space. Pour your heart and you will be full. Love.
Zaynab lives in the woods of the Slocan Valley with her dog Threshold.
(Pronouns: she, her)
Photo credit: FMRL Productions
Alex Chen (Victoria)
Alex is a baritone, collaborative pianist and vocal coach whose curiosity brings fresh perspectives on a diverse body of musical works. In the words of his mentor John Hess, he is “an immensely musical, sensitive player” with “a deeply inquisitive mind.”
Alex performs regularly both as a singer and collaborative pianist in the Victoria music community, exploring genres such as art song, opera and choral music. Moreover, as a faculty member at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, he supports a wide variety of students and young professional singers from the piano. As a researcher, Alex held a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Scholarship to fund his work in dynamic art song programming. He is dedicated to education and engagement, striving to create lasting impressions with his performances and to foster a desire to learn more with his innovative artistic projects.
Recent professional highlights include performing in solo voice and chorus capacities with Pacific Opera Victoria in their 2021 Open Air Festival and mainstage productions, respectively; dynamically collaborating with singers in the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s song competitions; and presenting, as a collaborative pianist and programmer, a distinguished recital titled Demons & Dichterliebe to explore themes of the supernatural and love.
In a past life, Alex handled birds of prey for educational programs and contemplated the physiological factors affecting birdsong during a BSc in Zoology. To keep in touch with his background in biology, he loves spending time outdoors and spotting local flora and fauna.
(Pronouns: he, him)
Emilie Kvist (Abbotsford/Mission)
Emilie is an artist based out of the Mission and Abbotsford region. In 2021, she completed a BFA at the University of the Fraser Valley. Emilie will be continuing her education in the fall at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, where she will enter the MFA program. As a print marker, she is interested in how the process of print media can be expanded to include sculpture and installation in the context of the contemporary art world.
(Pronouns: she, her)
Shelley Stein-Wotten (Nanaimo)
Shelley writes and eats mostly vegetables from her home in Nanaimo, B.C. Her focus is writing and producing comedy. Her writing often fuses the grounding she established creating comedic characters for sketches with the narrative flow of essay writing.
Shelley harnesses humour as a mechanism for confronting reality and to engage people to consider truths about how we live, including the more absurd aspects, and what they might say about who we are. She finds herself drawn to extracting an aspect of an ecological and social justice issue, and twisting it into a comedic narrative. For Shelley, writing comedy isn’t about making up funny jokes or situations. It’s about exposing and exploring the humour that is already there in order to illuminate new paths of thinking.
Shelley’s sketches have been performed in Vancouver and Seattle and her work has been published in R U Joking?, The Temz Review, JÓN Magazine and The Belladonna. She also co-produced and co-created the web series All My Pants, which won awards at LA Webfest. She has a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and journalism and a diploma in writing for film and television. Shelley loves gardening and taking slow walks in the hope of meeting new plant friends. She is a certified pollinator steward through Pollinator Partnership Canada as well as a self-certified invasive plant hacker.
(Pronouns; she, her)
Photo credit: Aviva Stein-Wotten
Priscilla Omulo (Port Coquitlam)
Priscilla is a Tsartlip First Nations and a visitor on Kwikwetlem territory. She has dedicated over ten years to frontline work with Indigenous women, children and families. Her education is in psychology with a citation in mental health and addiction.
Her life is rooted in her traditional and cultural teachings, and this includes the way she works with the community. The colonial term of intersectional feminist best describes her way of navigating the systems we are living and working within. Gender, sexual orientation, race, disability all intersect with the forms of oppression faced by many BIPOC, LBGTQ2TIA people and folks living with disabilities. Her work is dedicated to dismantling systems of oppression and seeking justice for all!
Priscilla strives to decolonize her work and life, Indigenize her ways of being and hold herself accountable for her learning and unlearning to support justice. When not facilitating decolonization and allyship workshops, guest speaking or in ceremony she can be found with community, organizing events for social justice and creating art.
(Pronouns: she, her)
Kim Leckey aka Sea Woven (Ucluelet and Tofino)
With a degree in fashion design from Toronto Metropolitan University (previously Ryerson University), Kim is a passionate artist and creator who has had the opportunity to work internationally in New Zealand, Central America and California. Now residing in Ucluelet and Tofino, Kim merges her love of the ocean and macrame with sustainability in mind to create her own style of fibre art. She specializes in using recycled, upcycled and marine debris material to construct unique macra weave projects that reflect the intricate timelessness of West Coast shorelines.
(Pronouns: she, her)
Pedram Penhan (Vancouver)
Pedram is a self-taught, multidisciplinary and queer artist who was born in Tehran, Iran, and immigrated to Canada in 2015 at the age of 23. Having had to flee their home country, travel through multiple countries in order to seek asylum and finally resettle in Canada, Pedram is now able to freely live and express themselves.
They use painting, photography, sculpture, collage and drag as their mediums to share their story, perspective and understanding of life, while challenging gender, class and racial discrimination and raising awareness about the climate crisis.
Pedram values community building, collaboration and integration through shared stories and experiences. They believe in the importance of self expression and the uniqueness of each individual’s life experience.
Pedram has worked with nonprofit art organizations across Canada for three years and has showcased their work in multiple exhibitions. They are currently working on their recently launched photography business as well as designing a new inclusive line of apparel.
(Pronouns: they, them)
Instagram: @parallel.pedram, @xibalba__queen
Élodie Orsei (Kelowna)
As an artist, creator and singer-songwriter, Élodie’s interests lie within bringing strength and meaning to the different communities she belongs to.
With a background in musical theatre, music and anthropology, Élodie’s approach to art inspires an introspective journey where we can reconnect to empathy, gratitude and understanding. In her work with performance art, Élodie explores movement-based theatre, where creation from physical cues offer a mysterious yet poignant way for humans to express themselves and comprehend the world around them. Élodie also works closely with the human voice and breath, powerful tools that hold a lot of emotion and truth. She is currently working on the release of her debut EP, upcoming in June 2022.
(Pronouns: she, her)