Kenyan artist, Tahir Carl Karmali is currently exhibiting his work at at United Photo Industries in DUMBO, Brooklyn, ending March 26, 2016. Here are some of examples of his digital portraits as well as an explanation of his work.
The expression “jua kali” derives from Swahili, which literally translated means “fierce sun”. The term was originally coined to identify the class of travelling peddlers and artisans that worked through the heat of daytime, and has since evolved to mean people that work in the informal economy. In a pejorative sense, it also stands for products of inferior quality.
Nevertheless, jua kali craftsmen are regarded as true recycling artists who, with an enormous spirit of invention and feeling for material, are able to create everyday commodities and works of art from almost any found object. Inspired by such fundamental creativity and aware that this sector represents a significant portion of the Kenyan economy, photographer and artist Tahir Carl Karmali uses surreal photomontages to portray jua kali craftsmen and women. Each image portrays an individual who has found a little niche for themselves in the everyday struggle for survival, developing an identity in the jua kali cosmos by trial and error. Technical components, computer circuit boards and mechanical parts are interwoven with the heads of the portrayed to form an anatomic unit, standing for the innermost world of thought. Karmali took pictures of garbage pieces to create his collages, combining them spontaneously with photos of the craftsmen and in so honoring the jua kali style.