Award winning poet Ahmed Ali also knows as ‘Knowmadic’, is a full-time poet, writer, actor, comedian, speaker and youth worker who currently resides in Treaty 6 Territory [Edmonton, Alberta].

Ahmed was born in Mogadisho in 1984 to a pastoral nomad and a farmer. In 1989, with help from their local community, Ahmed, his 3 older brothers and his mother immigrated to Italy evading the civil war. When his family arrived in Italy, Ahmed and his older brothers were forced into boarding schools. To say Ahmed underwent a culture shock is an understatement. He quickly learned what it meant to be different. Not only because he didn’t speak Italian but because he placed value on his culture and religion. After several years and many attempts at seeking sponsorship, Ahmed’s father secured a sponsorship from an organization in Canada. His family packed what little belongings they had and arrived in Edmonton, Alberta in the winter of 1992. But due to difficulty integrating his family moved to Kitchener, Ontario in 1993.

At the Age of 16, his parents decided they wanted to go back to Somalia. During their absences, Ahmed attended school and worked at Tim Horton’s to cover rent. It was at this time Ahmed became involved in activities that got him in trouble with the law. Quickly his life became filled with the race wars and confrontational cops that he tried to avoid.  This continued until he got arrested and expelled from school for fighting a student that was being overtly racist. Ahmed’s older brothers gathered enough money to fly him to Somalia and visit their parents. There Ahmed learned the true struggles that people who had no access to food banks and shelters faced. He awakened at the lack of opportunity that was relevant there in Somalia and the freedom to be whatever in Canada.

After a few months Ahmed returned with a new demeanor. His outlook on life had shifted dramatically. He enrolled in drama classes and took theater lessons.  He instantly fell in love and quickly grew as an artist. His energy and focus on writing during his ESL days contributed to his strength in creative writing. He co-wrote an anti-bullying skit that he and serval students performed for thousands of grade 4-8 students.

In 2001 Ahmed became the first Somali to enrol into Comedy Writing and performance at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario. He was involved in creating his own sketch comedy and presenting it at The Second City. He also performed at open mics throughout greater Toronto.

In 2008 Ahmed moved to Edmonton to attend University. In 2009 he attended the Edmonton Poetry Festival where he performed poetry for the first time in front of an audience. He instantly fell in love with the spoken word and became active in the poetry community.

In 2009 alongside a few other poets, they founded The Breath in Poetry Collective. A collective of poets to who organize and curate poetry in classes and throughout the community. The Breath in Poetry provides performances, business mentor-ship, class workshops and outreach through community collaborations.

In 2011, Ahmed became the first Somali spoken word champion at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. In 2012, he was given the RISE award for community involvement in the arts and culture, and a year later, the Artist in Residence at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle, Washington.

Ahmed was named a “Difference Maker” by the Edmonton Journal in 2013 for his contribution to poetry in Edmonton. His commitment to poetry in schools is audible during youth conferences from the many youth who he has worked with on some capacity. In 2014, ACGC recognized the young poet as Alberta’s Top 30 under 30 for his work with IFSSA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mennonite Center for New Comers, and Ghandi Peace Conference and Edmonton Public Schools to name a few.

His passion and commitment to poetry earned him an opportunity to represent Canada at the International Literature showcase in Norwich, UK, which is recognized by UNESCO as a city of literature.

His talent continues to be recognized. In the early months of 2015 he was given HAF Award for “dedication to and inspiring Somali Youth” and the 2015 Northlands Emerging Artist at the Mayors Celebration of the Arts.

Ahmed’s is set to publish a poetry book in the summer of 2015. But has had several poems published in anthologies and journals that are taught in schools in Canada.

Photo Credit: Chris Colbourne St. Albert Gazette

Chris Colbourne St. Albert Gazette