Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Mohammad Hamza dies aged 87: 'The Dean of Saudi drama'

Hamza was revered for his enduring contributions to Saudi Arabia's performing arts scene

Saudi actor Mohammed Hamza has died aged 87. Labeebhub / Twitter
Saudi actor Mohammed Hamza has died aged 87. Labeebhub / Twitter

Saudi actor and playwright Mohammad Hamza died on August 26. He was 87.

A doyen of Saudi Arabia's drama movement, Hamza was revered for his enduring contributions to the country’s performing arts scene.

The actor became a household name in the kingdom after starring in the 1982 drama Asabi’ Al Zaman (Fingers of Time). But it was the 1989 show Lailat Hroob (Runaway Night) that brought him regional attention, and cemented his name in the Arab world.

Tributes to the late dramatist began flooding on social media soon after his death was announced.

“His works had an important place in Saudi’s collective memory,” Mohammad Salama, a Saudi art researcher and critic, wrote on Twitter.

Saudi actor Abdulmajeed Alrhedi – who credits Hamza as being his artistic mentor – told ET Bilarabi that Hamza “had his fingerprints on the Saudi art scene not only as an actor, but a writer and producer as well.”

Hamza was born in Medina in 1933. He moved to Jeddah to work at a civil aviation company before turning his attention to the arts in the mid 1960s.

“My father began his career in the arts before coloured screens, but his beginning that many people do not know is that he was a football player, and he played as a striker in the Al Wahda and Al-Ahli football clubs,” Hamza’s son, Louai, said in an earlier interview with the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

Mohammad Hamza became a household name in the kingdom after starring in the 1982 drama 'Asabi’ Al Zaman' (Fingers of Time). Labeebhub/Twitter
Mohammad Hamza became a household name in the kingdom after starring in the 1982 drama 'Asabi’ Al Zaman' (Fingers of Time). Labeebhub / Twitter

Hamza wrote and acted in several productions, both for the stage and the screen, earning the nickname “the Dean of Saudi drama”. However, his beginnings in the world of drama were a leap in the dark, with Hamza having to fund his own productions.

“In the 1980s, he began writing and producing drama from his own pocket, and he achieved a very big success because his goal was to give art for the sake of art. There is no trade in art,” Louai said.

Even early on in his career, Hamza regularly involved his sons, Wael and Louai, in his productions. Both of his sons acted alongside him in a number of shows and plays including Asabi’ Al Zaman (Fingers of Time).

In February, in what is believed to be his last TV interview, Hamza told Al Arabiya that he had wanted to present topics that were relatable to people, and to present issues that Saudis could identify with in their own dialect.

“When my father writes a script, he needs to make sure that every word and every sentence is said in its right place and emotional weight,” Wael Hamza said during an interview with Al Arabiya.

Hamza was forced to retire after he broke his pelvis and a medical accident left him bound to a wheelchair.

In 2006, the Cairo Radio and Television Festival honoured Hamza for his contributions to the region’s performing arts. His last performance was in 2013 show Ahl el Balad (The Country’s People).

Updated: August 27, 2020 03:08 PM

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