Home is a State of Mind: Ismaaciil C. Ubax


Ismaaciil C. Ubax began writing his first book in 2007, a work that remains unpublished. Ismaaciil prefers reading books in Swedish, his second language, which is his source of inspiration.

His latest book “Gaax” (Looh Press, 2017) became prominent in the region and a best-seller at the Hargeysa International Book Fair in 2017.  All four of his novels are written in his native language, Somali, though Ismaaciil also writes in English and much of his work is translated, some yet to be published.

Ismaaciil is currently Project Manager at Hargeysa Cultural Centre (Twitter:  @HargeysaCC). Check out his contribution to the Gu’ 2018 issue, “Ha Duulo Digaaggu.”

Facebook: @IsmaaciilUbax

What is your idea of perfect happiness?Is there even a perfect happiness? Some say happiness in general is looking beyond the imperfections.

I have a theory for happiness. There are things we want to do/have in life and then there are things we need, things that we have to do/have no matter what. The thing you want is most of the time what brings you happiness, while what you need is what you have to get in order to survive. Getting what you need brings you comfort but doing what you want brings you happiness and sometimes you have to give up what you want for what you need. So, when what you need coincides with what you want, that is when you obtain happiness.

I hope that wasn’t confusing 🙂

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Maybe. Why not! I think. Lovely. Who cares?

What is your favorite childhood memory?

It must have been at least ten minutes [that I’ve been] thinking about the answer to this question. A favourite one? I actually don’t have it.

At what point in your life did you find yourself exploring your talent?

I met this man in Sweden who went through tahriib and he told me about his long journey, a surreal story that I thought only could take place in movies. I was an adult and I told him that I wanted to publish his story. That is when I found out that I could write.

In what mood do you usually create your work (happy, sad, excited, calm, madness)?

My favourite is sadness. Sadness does wonders. But it’s also all about “creating” a mood. You don’t only get inspiration, you have to search for it too. A perfect writing session for me would be having my laptop on a desk, a big mug of black coffee on my right side which will be refilled frequently, and last but not least music. Preferably Ethiopian. I can’t concentrate without having my headphones on.

What or who inspires you as an artist/author?

People inspire me the most. I just look around and see ordinary people passing by and I wonder what they’re thinking about. Are they sad? What’s bothering them? The answers are endless and that is what triggers me.

Does your work usually carry a message?

Not necessarily. I enjoy writing about feelings and trying to find the correct words for a particular mood. “The message” is irrelevant in these cases.

What is your spirit animal? Why?

A cougar because of its determination and confidence.

What is your greatest fear?

Snakes! I can’t comprehend why they even exist. We’re good without them.

What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?

“Do not expect anything from anyone.” I know it’s sad but it makes you happy.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could create good music. To understand and then create a piece of great music is the one talent that I would like to have the most.

What does home mean to you?

I believe home is a state of mind. You’re home whenever you don’t have to explain yourself.

Which living person do you admire?

My mother. She went through a lot but it doesn’t take much to make her smile either.

What is your proudest achievement?

Proving some people wrong.

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