in a nutshell

Born in Forest Gate, London in 1973, sylvan seeds were planted at the outset. Nizami studied old school AI and dance music in Edinburgh and Birmingham before returning to London as new media producer at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, then website manager at the V&A Museum.

He was a freelance information architect and digital designer for many years, before burning out and returning to his roots. He studied creative writing at City University in 2006, was initiated into Amazonian shamanism in Peru and followed a shamanic school across Latin America.

He managed a haunted retreat centre in Bali in 2012 before running acclaimed workshops and retreats in the UK and Peru. He managed 50 hectares of rainforest in the Madre de Dios through lockdown, studied karmic astrology and Gene Keys, produced electronic music and wrote a novel. He now hovers between the UK and Bali.         

tracks in the sand


Born in Forest Gate, East London, sylvanian seeds were planted at the outset. Some of my earliest memories are of Epping Forest. When the gate closed, it was 35 years before it opened again.

The interlude was a detour into Normal, the trials and tribulations of a quasi military all-boys school, university and various jobs. A hidden condition was woven into it all, loyalty to Normal aka Compliance.

I was an avid reader. My first novel was The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings came soon after. I had a compilation of science fiction short stories, in which I discovered Harlan Ellison, Brian Aldiss and Isaac Asimov. I was fascinated by the Robot stories. The idea of artificial intelligence stuck with me. Later I would be impressed by the tragic life of Alan Turing.

In 1982 we had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, one of the first home computers. We had one of the first games, a text adventure of The Hobbit. Playing Bilbo, you typed commands like "Go North" or "Ask Thorin to get into the boat." 

This was long before computers could process natural language. The Spectrum had an onboard memory of 48K, 350,000 times smaller than the Mac I'm using now. I could never get Thorin in the boat but I knew computers would be a big part of life.

Reading William Gibson's Neuromancer trilogy completed the left-brain hijack of my being. I tore up my art portfolio and opted to study science, then AI and Computer Science at Edinburgh University.

In 1991, AI was a weird offshoot of Computer Science. Lecturers wore sandals, read Gurdjieff and contemplated consciousness. Computer Science was either maths, which was traumatic, or invented admin tools for offices and became known as IT.  

One afternoon, after smoking a joint out the window, the predilection of many years to come, I had my first lucid dream, which jogged the memory of my earliest memory, a fever dream. There was no Facebook or Google then. Netscape pointed me to the alt.dreams.lucid newsgroup.

People recognised my description of this fever dream. They were spooked. We wandered what it meant. Someone recommended I read Carlos Castaneda.

Two years later I took a Masters in Cognitive Psychology at Birmingham University. Compliance was woven in. CogSci  sees humans as computers, which always bugged me. Looking for secondhand textbooks in the student bookshop, a book fell from the top shelf onto my head, into my hands and opened at a certain page. The book was Carlos Casteneda's The Fire From Within. Normal went up in smoke.


I discovered house music, bought turntables and a mixer, and began an obsession with dance music. Acerbic contributions to UK-Dance, a scene newsletter, led to participation in the Triology Collective. Recreational experiences, some very challenging, prepared me for what was coming.

I returned to art in 1998, becoming producer at the Sun Microsystems New Media Centre at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. I moved coiled ethernet cables and configured servers for the early digerati, met William Gibson and Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis.  

Bill Joy, head of Sun, wrote his famous line: "Use technology to create a vampire. For extra credit create an antidote." I sketched a dance production, Teknosferatu. Matrix stole the show in 1999.

A year later I was Head of Web Projects with my own office at the V&A Museum. With a distinctly end of millennium look, the V&A website won multiple awards.

I left to grab what was left of the Dotcom boom, becoming Senior Information Architect at Siegel & Gale before it all fell apart.

A long spell of freelance imposture ensued, producing sitemaps and diagrams for big name brands. I had a warehouse apartment, a leather jacket the same colour as the designer sofa and rode a designer scooter to work.

But something wasn't right. I spent countless hours out the window. I read Jeff Noon's Falling Out of Cars and was struck by his idea of a "sickness." 

I met a woman on Guardian Soulmates. There was a sense of deja vu. I fell madly in love. Short story short, I discovered that soulmates are a karmic function.

My imposture crumbled. A voice spoke from the ashes. What was I doing? What happened to dreams and shamanic adventures? What happened to writing? 

I sold the flat and the sofa and booked a seat on the least compromising shamanic retreat I could find.

Talking to the plants

This was the late Howard Lawler's legendary SpiritQuest: Talking to the Plants. I travelled to Peru in 2007, and was initiated into the world of ayahuasca. The first thing I was shown was my own shadow,  a man in black sunglasses, radiating hatred. It scared the hell out of me.

Two weeks in the Amazon were followed by the Huachuma Mesa Journey Through Time, an extraordinary tour of ancient sites of power, guided by Howard's masterful channeling of the San Pedro cactus. At El Brujo, a Moche site still under excavation, I understood the perils and pitfalls of power. Seductive but with a heavy price.

I went back to Normal for year, working as a user experience architect with decreasing degrees of satisfaction. Flipping screens when nobody was looking, I was working on my writing.

I studied Creative Writing at City University, read an excerpt at Waterstones, Piccadilly, and picked up a literary agent.

A year later I found my way to a shamanic school. My journey with the plants continued, and I returned to the Amazon for several shamanic dietas.


11 November 2011, I was at the steps down to King's Cross Tube Station. The grille went up and a sea of faces surged up towards me. The feeling of having to leave London hit me like a wave.

I landed in Asia, helping my brother with the branding and website for his business training company while working on a draft of "The Song of A and Wa."

My agent had garnered excitement from a raft of publishers. They were waiting for the completed manuscript. July that year was hell. 20 hours at the laptop, 4 hours sleep, repeat. Deadlines came and went.  

I completed the draft. All thirteen editors came back with the same response. Great writing but the story wasn't for them.

Years later I read an interview with Haruki Murakami. Sometimes he would have an idea for a story he couldn't yet write. He would jot down the idea on a slip of paper and leave it in a drawer until such time as he could.

I discovered Bali, much-needed respite from the concrete towers of Kuala Lumpur. I fell in love with the incense, the offerings, the Barong dance. I learned to play Balinese flute and developed the SpiritBody system of meditation and movement.

Coincidence led to discovery of a crumbling retreat centre, painfully mismanaged by a Chinese recluse in his eighties. I offered to help. Suddenly I was the manager.

At first it was a dream come true. Rapidly, reality was revealed. It was a lila, a karmic play. Caught in the crossfire between owner and clients, with no power to solve the many problems, I did what I could and got out of there.

2013, I was back in London but this time its days were numbered. Two years later Davina MacKail, best friend and fellow graduate from shamanic school, and found a house to rent in East Sussex, and carried on the work of the shamanic school. Friends sent messages of congratulations, thinking we had got married and moved in together.


That first house lasted a year. Less sure of the project than Davina, I hedged my bets by taking a contract, teaching UX in Farringdon. The first day, I woke with an inexplicable pain in my right knee. I could hardly walk. I hobbled into the job like an old man.

I was commuting five hours a day during the week, and running shamanic workshops at the weekend. On the last day of the job, I was running to catch the train at London Victoria when I dislocated both kneecaps mid stride. It was  painfully clear: I could no longer walk two paths at once.


I found Brightling Hall on my birthday, 2016. For once the karmic lila was beneficent. A storeroom was stuffed to the ceiling with boxes marked with my birthday 2011. Davina turned this crumbling Victorian villa into a beautiful home overnight.

The next three years were a halcyon period. We tamed the forest of rhododendron, honoured the indigenous trees, and ran three cohorts of our acclaimed programme, Natural Wisdom Leaders.  

Fifty participants achieved life-changing transformations. Lifelong friendships were made. One couple broke up. Another got married. In the middle of this wonderful activity, news arrived of an ecolodge for sale in the Madre de Dios. 

We weren't planning a move to Peru but spirit had its way. We reached out to the community and raised the money to buy the place.

50 hectares of tropical rainforest was a huge upscale from 12 acres of Sussex woods. During the Brightling years, we ran the place remotely, taking a group out each year as part of our annual Pilgrimage to Peru. 

Something was planted on those retreats. A call grew louder and louder. The way the world was going, we would need a place of sanctuary. We had to take the place to the next level, and to do that we would have to live there.

February 2020, we dissolved our lives and travelled to Peru for what was to be our last retreat. It was a magical, special time. During the farewell dinner in Cusco, I remember seeing a newsflash on the TV in the bar. Phones were ringing. Something was going down. Next day Covid arrived.

We hung on in Madre de Dios for two years hoping our plans for a sustainable community and a temple to nature would revive. 

But funds were running out, Peru was in lockdown, and the Amazon is a tough place to do business at the best of times. Finding the right buyer for an ecolodge in Covid took some doing.


Spring 2022 I was back in London. Post lockdown, it had changed. Brexit, Covid, the destruction of Jeremy Corbyn and his dream of another world. Everything had doubled in price.

It was a difficult year, one of the darkest of my life. Not knowing where to turn, I turned on myself. I had failed. The shamanic path had come to an end. Davina and I had lost our home.

There were flashes of light. I replaced my decade-old laptop and returned to music and writing. I spent my birthday at Merlin's place of power in the hills of Wales. But the freakishly hot summer could only mean a freakish winter to come.

Friends in Bali persuaded me that life was better there. Like everywhere else, Bali has changed since Covid, and a lot since 2012. 

One of the world's top holiday and nomad destinations, the sound of Bali is no longer the ceremonial hammering of gamelan but the hammering of  building sites. Torrential rain seems the only force that can halt the relentless construction.

Yet it is here that I completed LIGHT. Its message of the technology transforming human identity came to me in 1999. It has taken 20 years to craft that message into a novel. A few scenes I wrote in 2012 survive. But the story has mutated unrecognisably.

LIGHT is blackly funny, twisting from ghost story to digital espionage to spiritual quest. Its hero is an ordinary bloke, lost in a sea of  change. Undertaking an undercover quest, it is his ordinariness and lostness — his humanity — that catalyse profound transformation. 

We have come a long way in a short time from The Hobbit on the Spectrum. AI is no longer science fiction. Understanding its evolutionary role is more important than ever.


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