Nadifa Mohamed was born in Hargeisa in 1981. Her family moved to England in 1986 in what was supposed to be a short stay, but stayed permanently when war broke out in Somalia shortly afterwards. She is the author of Black Mamba Boy, which based on stories from her father’s life in the Middle East and Africa. She was educated at the University of Oxford, studying history and politics.
Black Mamba Boy was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award and won the 2010 Betty Trask prize from the Society of Authors. In 2013 she published The Orchard of Lost Souls, which won the Somerset Maugham prize and was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas prize.
Somali emigration is the result of an ongoing civil war that grew out of resistance to the Siad Barre regime during the 1980s. By 1988–90, the Somali Armed Forces began engaging various armed rebel groups, eventually managing to overthrow the Barre government in 1991. It was estimated in 1993 that three-quarters of the population had been internally displaced since 1988 due to fighting.
After Siyad Barre’s regime fell in January 1991, fighting began between 16 different rival factions in Somalia. These clan wars and the long drought led to over 900,000 Somalis fleeing to neighbouring nations.
While Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister (1979 – 1990) immigration levels were much lower than they are today. The deep recession had reduced many of the economic pull factors for migration and the refugee producing crises of the 1990s including the collapse of the Iron Curtain were yet to happen. The British Nationality Act 1981 continued the restrictions to the rights of Commonwealth Citizens introduced in the Immigration Act 1971, and work permits became more difficult to get without specialist skills. During the 1980s racial tensions emerged which led to the riots of 1981 in Brixton, Liverpool and the Midlands.