Life is a Circus

Tom Nash: Overcoming Disability to Create Art

Australian quadruple amputee finds success as DJ Hookie.

When Tom Nash was 19, he was struck with a devastating disease called meningococcal septicemia. The infection left him with both arms amputated at the elbow, both legs amputated below the knee, and his face and body riddled with scars. But Tom didn’t lose his creativity, or his determination. And that allowed him not just to overcome his disabilities, but to thrive as an artist, thinker, inspirational speaker and DJ.  

A guitar player before his health crisis, Tom first turned his attention to inventing a way to play guitar with his prosthetic hooks. Working with friends and open tunings, he created a system that allowed him to realize that goal. 

And Tom didn’t stop there. He re-invented himself as a DJ, despite having to learn the art from the ground up. With his friends, he began to organize club nights in Sydney, eventually presiding over the dance floor as DJ Hookie. Today, DJ Hookie plays festivals all over Australia, and is recognized worldwide for his talents.  

For Tom, inclusion has always been part of the deal. From the earliest days of organizing club nights, he wanted to ensure that all were welcome and felt included in a truly open atmosphere.   

Tom has received worldwide acclaim for his public advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities, which includes a popular TED talk. But what he relishes most about his work is the solitude he experiences in pursuit of his art. During these liminal moments, he finds himself alone with his creative center, which operates beyond physical confines and challenges. 

While Cirque du Soleil is most often associated with extraordinary physical feats and expression, we also understand that internal process, and the inner peace the artist achieves at the peak of performance. We find inspiration, too, in Tom’s extraordinary ability to overcome limitations through the power of connection and creativity.  

Follow him on Instagram: @djhookie 

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