In Nadifa Mohamed's latest film, a man hanged for a murder he didn't commit

MEN OF FORTUNE By Nadifa Mohamed Mahmood Hussein Mattan was the last man to be executed by hanging in Cardiff, Wales, in 1952. A sailor...

By Nadifa Mohamed

Mahmood Hussein Mattan was the last man to be executed by hanging in Cardiff, Wales, in 1952. A sailor from British Somaliland residing in Cardiff, Mattan was wrongly convicted of the murder of Lily Volpert, a merchant and lender Jewish money, in the community of Tiger Bay.

In her third novel, “The Fortune Men”, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Somali-British writer Nadifa Mohamed returns to this real-life case to explore the centuries-old histories of the British Empire, of the Somali presence in Britain, of the nation’s anti-black violence, of the prison institution in the West. It is a subject close to the heart of the author; Mohamed compared Mattan’s biography to that of his own father, both merchant sailors born in the same town and arrived in England at the same age. “You can see these young men who were thrown into post-war Britain,” she told The Guardian, “and found the humor here, the love here, the terror here. “

Mohamed balances colonial history and violence with the evocative inner lives of Mahmood and Violet Volacki, a fictionalized Volpert. The first chapters follow each of their lives in Tiger Bay – a heterogeneous community populated by immigrants from various former colonies: West Africans, Maltese, Sikhs, Muslims, Chinese, Yemenis, Somalis, poor whites – from the days that have passed. preceded his assassination until his hanging. Violet has never married and is the sole source of income for her all-female household, which includes her sister and niece. Their ancestors were Russian Jews who came to Wales in the early 1920s to escape persecution.

Mahmood lives a short distance from his wife and three sons, in a boarding house with Caribbean immigrant sailors, with whom “he has no common language, culture or religion.” There he is nicknamed “the ghost” because of his constant walks at night, when – to avoid police harassment – he learned to wander unnoticed. Mahmood’s path to Cardiff began as a teenager, with a long journey from Somaliland to South Africa, to a port where he boarded a merchant navy vessel traveling across the British Empire. In Cardiff, his marriage to a poor white teenage girl named Laura meets hostility: “They could only find squalid, dark-walled places to hire as a mixed couple.” In this context, Mohamed brilliantly portrays the complexities of the community within the black diaspora, in a region where “Somalia matters to West Africans and West Indians who take him for an Arab rather than one. of them “.

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Newsrust - US Top News: In Nadifa Mohamed's latest film, a man hanged for a murder he didn't commit
In Nadifa Mohamed's latest film, a man hanged for a murder he didn't commit
Newsrust - US Top News
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