Somaliland: “My Subjects Choose Me” Novelist Nadifa Mohamed


By: Yusuf M HasanNovelist Nadira Mohamed

Somalilandsun- Budding writer British Somalilander Ms Nadifo Mohamed 31, who was among this year’s winner of the Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists award briefed reporter Mahmud Walaleye of Somalilandsun on a number of issues among them how she came into writing.

Fleeing from the Somalia war In 1988 Novelist Nadifo Mohamed who is reported to be a singer Beyoncé fan moved to London where she studied History and Politics at Oxford where upon graduating she has concentrated in her writing career.

Ms Nadifo Mohamed was born in Hargeisa, Somaliland in 1981 of a sailor father who plied his trade in the merchant navy and Hargeisa landlady mother who moved with then then 7 years old Nadifo to their new home in the UK.

Literary career

Mohamed’s first novel, Black Mamba Boy (2009), is a semi-biographical account of her father’s life in Yemen in the 1930s and ’40s, during the colonial period and in the words of Ms Mohamed: “The novel grew out of a desire to learn more about my roots, to elucidate Somali history for a wider audience and to tell a story that I found fascinating.”

Black Mamba Boy won the 2010 Betty Trask Award, and was short-listed for numerous awards, including the 2010 Guardian First Book Award, the 2010 Dylan Thomas Prize, and the 2010 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. The book was also long-listed for the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Below are full verbatim excerpts of the interview

How did the writing passion come into you, were you influenced by external factors ?

  1. I fell into writing by accident after I discovered how interesting my father’s life was, I wanted to record his story for the future but it became a much bigger task and I also discovered my own love of writing. If there were any external factors forcing me to write it was time and the knowledge that the story of my father’s generation would disappear soon,

Recently, you were given an award on young writers, how did you feel? Was the award influenced by the topics you write about?

  1. I was very happy to be included in  Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists as it meant that my work would reach a wider audience, I write stories that are very personal to me and I would write them even if they weren’t published but what recognition does is enable you to make a living from your passion.

How do you choose themes for your topics, and does writing fiction and non-fiction differ? If so which one do you prefer?

  1. I think my subjects chose me rather than the other around, there are certain images, ideas, stories that fill my mind and it is from those that a novel begins.

Does book writing need schooling in or is it a gifted talent? What advice do you pass young writers or Nadifo (#13) with Granata young novelists 2013 awardeesanticipating being ones?

  1. I don’t think you need any particular education to be a writer, it is more about inspiration, discipline, passion and the desire to tell a story. I think I learned how to write from reading other books, looking at photographs, watching films, listening to music and creating my own vision.

Lastly, how do your writings factor in fostering wellbeing of world society as whole and Somaliland’s in particular?

5.It is hard to think about how a novel might foster global wellbeing or a nation’s wellbeing as for most of the time you are wriInvestigative Reporter Mahmoud Walaleyeting it is a private thing scribbled on little bits of paper and put down in fragments on the computer, any grand political aims would probably be suffocating but the fiction I want to write and read is aware of social and political injustices, I think the consequences of power and powerlessness are such a fact of human life that you cannot ignore them in any artistic endeavour.

Watch the Ms Nadifo video Commissioned in collaboration with the British Council which is Directed and produced by The Film Atelier. Nadifo Mohamed