Taxi driver by night, artist by day: Dubai cabbie paints RTA official calendar

Years of perseverance finally pay off as RTA uses his art for its 2013 calendar

  • Black and White Masterpiece: Hamza with his current workImage Credit: Francois Nel/Xpress
  • Proud possession: Hamza with the 2013 RTA calendarImage Credit: Francois Nel/Xpress
  • Glorious tribute: Taxi driver Hamza, in his room, holds up the RTA calendar for which he created 12 paintings Image Credit: Francois Nel/Xpress
  • Glorious tribute: Taxi driver Hamza with the RTA calendar for which he created 12 paintings of Shaikh MohammadImage Credit: Francois Nel/Xpress
  • Finishing touch: Hamza finds time to pursue his hobby despite a hectic 12-hour daily grindImage Credit: Francois Nel/Xpress
  • Black and White Masterpiece: Hamza with his current workImage Credit: Francois Nel/Xpress
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51 XPRESS

Dubai: He cruises Dubai roads from 4pm to 4am daily to earn his livelihood and support his family back home in India. It’s a hard life all too well known. But when he returns to his room in Al Nahda, Sharjah and casts his eyes on the colour palette, the fatigue of the 12-hour night shift suddenly dissipates. Instinctively, his hand reaches for the brush like a man possessed.

Meet cabbie Hamza Erimakunnath from Kerala, and the artist behind the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) 2013 calendar.

Distributed last week, the calendar represents the enormous talent and commitment of the 39-year-old taxi driver who has pursued his passion for painting despite the demands of a hectic job.

“I could not have asked for anything better in my life,” he said, proudly showing us the calendar.

“Firstly, my company recognised my talent and gave me an opportunity to showcase it. The RTA staff have constantly supported me; I could not have come this far without them,” he says fighting back tears.

“My happiness knew no bounds when RTA approached me in the middle of January to make water-colour paintings of Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for the calendar. They also gave me a month’s leave for the task. By end of my one-month break, I had made 17 portraits of His Highness, 12 of which were chosen for the calendar,” said Hamza, who earns Dh4,000 monthly.

Hamza’s talent was earlier recognised by RTA in an internal talent show in which he walked home with the top prize. “On National Day two years ago I won RTA’s talent contest. From then on, my manager has been supporting me, but to be part of the RTA calendar is the greatest moment for me.”

Filled with several oil paintings of UAE leaders, his room resembles a studio.

A massive 58 x 40 inch portrayal of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, stands out. “I saw this picture in a book and decided to paint it. It took me two months to finish it.”

Hamza is currently putting the finishing touches to a 32 x 23 inch portrait of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan smiling at a falcon – which according to Hamza is one of his best works. “It’s a black and white piece and I am very excited about it.”

Working the night shift from 4pm until 4am, where does he muster all the energy to pursue his passion?

“Where there is a will there is a way. My family lives in India and I miss them a lot. I want to spend every minute of my life – away from them – in a useful way. Painting helps me do that.

Hamza said he started painting at the age of five.

“In my home town, I struggled to get my paintings to reach the right people. But here in Dubai, thanks to my company and their support, I have been able to maximise my talent.

“You just need one hour in a day just for yourself to pursue your passion. You never know when it could become the next big thing in your life,” he said.

Your comments

51 Comments
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  • Maria

    Mar 28, 2013 2:05

    Very talented! Inspiring!

  • Joaquin Antonio R.

    Mar 28, 2013 1:48

    You are a gifted with a superb talent.! Your hands are not trained to paint but were really intended to paint. I wish I could see the actual paintings.! You deserve your rewards and the chance! Hoping more opportunities will come to you along the way to reap the benefits of your passion.

  • Arun.s.v

    Mar 28, 2013 1:41

    Great work.My hearty wishes

  • Charm

    Mar 28, 2013 12:52

    Where can we get copies of that calendar? I want to have one :)

  • Vipin

    Mar 28, 2013 12:25

    Thumbs up and salute to Hamsa for his splendid job of painting 17 portraits of HH Shaikh Mohammad in just one month that too with such perfection and beauty. We believe that not all has the inborn talent of having some special skills in life, but how to put in use and keep it alive is a challenge for the gifted. And Hamsa had gonemuch beyond it by proving that even after very tedious and hard work of continious driving across this busy city in hot weather for 12 hours, love for an inner passion can be fulfilled.

  • Mel

    Mar 28, 2013 11:29

    This is absolutely wonderful... He is very talented and it is great that RTA recognised his talent and Gulf News published a story about him. I hope he gets to showcase his talent more and more.

  • Charm

    Mar 28, 2013 11:10

    Wow...What an amazing work! A real artist! I hope the RTA paid him well for your artworks. It costs a lot if you showcase that elsewhere... I would say you are an artist who happens to know how to drive a taxi! Cheers!

  • Issah

    Mar 28, 2013 11:01

    This is very nice of the RTA to support a talented driver, especially for appreciating an employee's talents. Hamza seems to be very talented and it seems he enjoys drawing and that's the reson behind his awesome drawings. I wish him luck and hope he can show his talent to the rest of the world

  • Rajesh Pillai

    Mar 28, 2013 11:00

    Great!!! Wishing him a wonderful future and God bless you!

  • Enzoo

    Mar 28, 2013 10:37

    You are a man of great talent. I admire your talent and kudos to you. Congratulations for a job well done.

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