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.