Collaborative Creation: Tahir Karmali

Danni Shen, BOMB, December 16, 2019

Cobalt oxide, copper, and aluminum from the lithium-ion batteries of defunct cell phones; suicide netting from outside factories in Shenzhen, China; raffia cloth native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar; organic, raw canvas sourced from the United States; and silk from East Africa—each of these forms the material makeup of Tahir Karmali’s practice. The Nairobi-born, New York-based artist’s research-oriented approach reflects on the processes that make materiality possible, including vernacular histories, labor, sourcing, industrial production, dissemination, and circulation through the global supply chain. In doing so, his work forms narratives concerning the socioeconomic and geopolitical networks that circulate goods and people. With an increasing focus on fair-trade sourcing from empowered communities that produce self-sustainably, while also considering low-waste design functions and infrastructures, Karmali’s practice engages the possibilities of collaborative creation in a globally interlinked, ever precarious economy.