International Prize for Contemporary African Photography

Tahir Karl Karmali

Born in 1987 in Nairobi, Kenya. Lives in New York City, USA

Jua Kali, 2014

The series represents the journey of the artisan into self-creation. Stemming from the informality of curating one’s life experiences to generate a perceived self-image.

Inspired by the informal sector that breathes character into Nairobi’s economy. The Jua Kali sector is built from the opportunistic personality and perseverance of the Jua Kali worker who often use locally available recycled or found objects to develop their creations. I use this element of Nairobi to describe one’s perceived self-image created from the idea of the Jua Kali philosophy. 

Each Portrait describes a personality that has created a surreal self-image to fit in Nairobi’s Jua Kali world.

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 but in reality it is the Jua Kali sector that fuels the city of Nairobi.