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Centre of African Studies: Events


The Mayor of Mogadishu

The Mayor of Mogadishu: Book Launch
Speaker: Andrew Harding # BBC; Hosted by: Pete Kingsley # Centre of African Studies
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
27th Oct 2016 13:00 - 27th Oct 2016 15:00
50 George Sq Lecture Theatre

An epic, uplifting story of one family’s journey through the violent unraveling of Somalia, and a timely exploration of what it means to lose your country and then to reclaim it.

In The Mayor of Mogadishu, one of the BBC’s most experienced foreign correspondents, Andrew Harding, reveals the tumultuous life of Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur - an impoverished nomad who was abandoned in a state orphanage in the newly independent African nation of Somalia, and became a street brawler and local basketball star (even playing against two visiting American players, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

When the country collapsed in the 1990s into civil war and the anarchy of “Black Hawk Down,” Tarzan and his young family became part of an exodus, eventually spending twenty years in London, Britain.

But in 2010 Tarzan returned, as Mayor of Mogadishu, to the unrecognizable ruins of a city now almost entirely controlled by the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants of Al Shabab. As he dodged assassination attempts and tried to restore basic services, Tarzan became a galvanizing symbol of courage and hope for Somalia. But the daily battles took their toll, and some soon accused him of being a divisive thug, who sank beneath the corruption and clan rivalries that continue, today, to threaten the country’s revival.

The Mayor of Mogadishu – a story of chaos and redemption in the ruins of Somalia is a rare an insider’s account of Somalia’s optimistic beginnings and subsequent unraveling, and an intimate portrayal of one family’s extraordinary journey.

“Africa can be explained in dry prose, in figures, in newspaper reports; or it can be explained, as Andrew Harding does in this book, through an astonishing personal story, vivid and utterly memorable. This is a triumph of a book: surprising, informative, and humane."

Alexander McCall Smith - author

"A stunning odyssey. Harding masterfully shows us there is no 'them' in the world – there is only 'us'."

J.M. Ledgard - author of Submergence

“A fluid, sympathetic journalistic foray into the tumultuous history of Somalia. Engaging... elegant... A beautifully rendered narrative and characterization portrays the soul of a country few Westerners truly understand.”

Kirkus Review’s “starred” review

“It is easy to gawk at the tragedy of Somalia; assuming an attitude of sensationalised disbelief. Andrew Harding refuses to do this. Instead he offers a wry, skeptical story. Part fable, part journalistic account, Harding's tale brims with sympathy and admiration for the human capacity for survival. The Mayor of Mogadishu is a great big gorgeous read.”

Sisonke Msimang – South African writer and columnist

"Andrew Harding is one of the great foreign correspondents in any medium. He has a sympathy for Somalia and its people that shines through this powerful book. He disdains cliché and reductive analysis, in the process creating some of the most beautiful writing about Africa that I have ever read.”

Fergal Keane – BBC correspondent and author

“The Mayor of Mogadishu is much more than the story of one ambitious Somali politician. It is the modern history of one of the world’s most troubled country, told with sensitivity, wisdom and compassion – and a rollicking good read besides.”

Justin Marozzi – author of Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood

“"One of Africa's most experienced correspondents zeroes in on one of the most intriguing characters in the extraordinary post-apocalyptic world of modern Mogadishu. Like the city and its mayor, Harding brings depth, clarity, nuance and occasional poetry to his story. Rich, epic and important.”

Alex Perry - author of The Rift

"Andrew Harding's elegantly-written account is much more than a portrait of the Mayor of Mogadishu. In bold, vivid brush-strokes it captures all the charm, colour, contradiction and menace of contemporary Somalia."

Michela Wrong – author of Borderlines

"I am truly inspired by this book. This is the best-written and most well articulated book about Somalia that I have ever seen. Any Somali reader, let alone non-Somalis, will learn so much about Mayor Tarzan, Mogadishu, and the nomadic Somali life style."

Abdirashid S. Ahmed - East African Community Specialist, Minneapolis

“A fascinating and well told story of a city, a nation, and a man who, for all practical purposes, could personify both city and nation. Lucidly and exquisitely written.”

Ali JImale – Professor, Queen’s College, New York

“Evocative and perceptive. The bitter-sweet fruit of time on the ground, good research and deep empathy.”

Nick Kay – former UN Special Representative to Somalia

“Andrew Harding has written a powerfully reported, sensitive book about a part of Africa that when thought of at all is usually considered simply forbidding. In The Mayor of Mogadishu he goes well beyond broad strokes to give us real life and whole and vivid characters.”

Howard W French – journalist and author

“A wonderful account of one of the most troubled yet beautiful countries on Earth, told by one of our most gifted and sensitive journalists. This is a book laced with hope amid the dark layers of hatred through which the Mayor of Mogadishu battles.”

Jon Snow – Channel 4 News, UK

"An excellent portrait of Somalia. Harding captures the agony the country has suffered for the last 25 years but also the strength, resilience and the humour of its remarkable people.” Richard Dowden - author Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles

ANDREW HARDING has been living and working abroad, as a foreign correspondent, for the past 25 years, in Russia, the Caucasus, Asia and Africa. He has been visiting Somalia since 2000. His television and radio reports for BBC News have won him international recognition, including an Emmy in 2014 for his reporting from the Central African Republic, a share of a 2004 Peabody Award for the BBC’s coverage of Darfur, and awards from Britain, France, Monte Carlo and Hong Kong. He currently lives in Johannesburg with his family.

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