Tahir Carl Karmali



















JUA KALI is Swahili for “Fierce Sun” – referring to the informal labourers that worked under the hot sun. Now it is a term used for people that work in any informal way and used to describe work that is substandard. I want to change this perception as in reality it is the Jua Kali sector that fuels the city of Nairobi.


























The Perception of Value















2016 – “Value” Solo Exhibition at Brooklyn College Library, Brooklyn, New York

2016 – “Jua Kali” as part of “Making Africa”  at CCCB, Barcelona, Spain

2016 – “Jua Kali” Solo Exhibition  at United Photo Industries, Brooklyn, New York

2015 – “Jua Kali” as part of “Making Africa”  at Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

2015 – “Jua Kali” in  OBSCURA Festival, George Town, Malaysia

2015 – “Jua Kali” in Rencontres Internationales de la Photo de Fès, Fès, Morroco

2015 – “Jua Kali” in LagosPhoto Festival, Lagos, Nigeria

2015 – “Jua Kali” in IFCV Festival International de Fotografia, Mindelo, Cape Verde

2015 – “Jua Kali” as part of “Image Afrique ’15” in ArtBasel, Theaterplatz, Basel

2015 – “Jua Kali” in Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Ghar el Melh, Tunisia

2015 – “Jua Kali” as part of “Edition POPCAP” at  Artificial Image, Berlin (Buy Prints)

2015 – “Jua Kali” as part of “Making Africa”  at Vitra Design Museum, Weil Am Rhein, Germany

2014 – “Untitled” – Art Cabinet, Nairobi, Kenya

2014 – “Jua Kali” – Kuona Trust Arts Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

2014 – Group exhibition at International School of Kenya

2014 – “Value” –  Kuona Trust Arts Centre, Nairobi, Kenya


2015 – International Contemporary African Photography awards: POPCAP’ 2015 /Jua Kali

2015 – Editor’s Choice Selection for GuatePhoto 2015 /Displaced

2014 – Kuona Trust Conceptual Exhibit Grant for “Jua Kali”

2014 – Kuona Trust Conceptual Exhibit Grant for “Value”















Tahir Karmali, born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya now based in Brooklyn, NY. Having begun his career as an ink painter, he combines abstract painting with portraiture. Tahir picked up the camera as a creative outlet while he traveled and worked in Asia and Europe. In 2013, he moved into a studio at Kuona Trust in Nairobi to concentrate on his practice and began mixing his painting and photography practice. His first solo exhibit, “Value,” was a provocative show in Kenya attracting a lot of press, where he depicted male sex workers with their most valuable possession.

Working closely with found object artists and sculptors, Tahir was inspired to create his exhibit “Jua Kali” – where he his discusses themes around the Kenyan economy through the informal sector. He won the POPCAP ’15 Prize for Contemporary African Photography and had the opportunity to show during Art Basel. His work is also part of the “Making Africa” Exhibit at the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Forbes named him as one of 15 Africans rebranding the face of the continent. Tahir received his Masters of Digital Photography at SVA and continues to experiment with mixed media, installation and digital photography. He is currently exploring themes and narratives around socioeconomics and ethnicity.

Outside of his fine-art practice Tahir photographs environmental portraiture, lifestyle and editorial photography.




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