Twenty years ago I was seriously broke. I used to count coins to go to the corner store. I would walk in and begin the negotiation Tango with a very kind Portuguese mama who owned the store. She would smile when I told her I would pay her the rest next week. She knew I would never pay her back.
I lived in Yeoville in Johannesburg. It was a suburb full of hustlers with vague potential and no money. It was full of people like me.
People who were sure they were supposed to go and do something important. They just needed to borrow some bus fare to go and do it.
We all had nothing. It united us. We knew we would have to figure it out for ourselves.
This is where I met Hamish. Hamish might have been one of the few people in Yeoville who was more broke than me.
And despite this, he was always creating things. He would make drawings, sculptures and good stories.
Eventually this culminated in an astoundingly ridiculous exhibition. I think there were two boxes of wine, not enough paper cups and a whole lot of people disappointed there was no food.
I walked in and in front of me was a pair of red wooden clogs. On the sides were some gold nike swooshes.
They were the funniest things I had ever seen. A pair of Nike clogs. Hamish had made them with spray paint. He probably stole the clogs. They were magnificent. They were desperate.
They were the creative equivalent of going down swinging. They were the funniest and saddest things I had ever seen.
Since that day, I have been a creative in some shape or form. I have been a photographer, a writer, director, copywriter and creative director.
Being creative is the only way I have made a living. It is a fantastic life.
You have days that get pretty close to perfection and you also have these days where you are cynical about creativity. Where you don’t believe in it or you feel like there is no point.
Those are dangerous days.
These days happen to every creative.
When those days happen to me I think about the red wooden nike clogs.
In the most desperate situation, Hamish made something great out of nothing.
He also taught me something in a split second that has lasted a lifetime. True creatives, have to create. No matter what the situation, they have to create. They have no choice in the matter. It is not a job or a quest, it’s who and what you are.
And sometimes when the great creatives create, they change the world. Or, they make some broke guy who hasn’t a clue what to do with his life, smile and then laugh.
Twenty years on, I still think about those magnificent, ludicrous red nike clogs.
I think they still fit my friend.