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Arthur Jafa
Arthur Jafa (2019, Prague).jpg
Jafa at Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, 2019
Arthur Jafa Fielder

(1960-11-30) November 30, 1960 (age 62)
Alma mater Howard University
Notable work Daughters of the Dust
Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death
AwardsBest Cinematography Sundance Film Festival 1992
Golden Lion Award
Venice Biennale 2019

Arthur Jafa ( /ˈfə/; born Arthur Jafa Fielder, November 30, 1960) is an American video artist and cinematographer. [1]

Early life and education

Jafa was born on November 30, 1960 in Tupelo, Mississippi and raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi which was highly segregated at the time. His parents were both educators and Jafa was raised Catholic. [2]

As a child, Jafa assembled binders full of found images in collections he called "the books." He also grew up watching shows like I Spy, and science fiction programs. [3]

Jafa studied architecture and film at Howard University before moving to Atlanta, Georgia. [4] [5]

Artistic career

The science fiction programs Jafa watched as a child has informed his artistic practice as an adult, as seen in his self portrait "LeRage" (2017). His work is also inspired by his interest in jazz musician Miles Davis. [3]

He has exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Julia Stoschek Collection, as well as many others. [6] [7] [8] He has worked as a cinematographer with directors Julie Dash and Spike Lee. His work on Dash's Daughters of the Dust (1991) won "Best Cinematography" Award at Sundance. [9]

His seven-minute video essay Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the High Museum of Art. [1] [10] Set to Kanye West's song " Ultralight Beam", the work consists of a series of found images and video clips depicting a range of Black American experiences throughout history which establishes that the black experience is not monolithic, every experience is unique. Among many other clips exploring African American life and resiliency, the video essay juxtaposes recordings of police violence and footage from the Civil Rights Movement with clips of Black artistry, pop culture, celebration, and creativity. [11] Jafa himself has connected the ethos of the work with his Catholic roots and Gian Lorenzo Bernini's " Ecstasy of Saint Teresa". [2] On Friday, June 26, 2020, 13 museums in 7 countries pledged, with Jafa's blessing, to stream the work for free on their respective websites for 48 hours. [12]

Jafa also has worked on a number of music videos and was the director of photography on videos for Solange's " Don't Touch My Hair" and " Cranes in the Sky." [13] He was included in the 2017 ArtReview Power 100 list. [14]

Jafa co-founded TNEG along with Malik Sayeed, a "motion picture studio whose goal is to create a black cinema as culturally, socially, and economically central to the 21st century as was black music to the 20th century". [15] TNEG has produced a number of works such as Dreams Are Colder Than Death and the music video for Jay-Z's song " 4:44".

In 2018, Jafa released the approximately forty minute-long video essay entitled The White Album, which uses found video clips from CCTV, cell phones, documentaries, and more to explore whiteness and racism in the United States of America. [16] [17] He was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist at the 2019 Venice Biennale for The White Album. [18]

In 2020, he produced a music video for Kanye West's single " Wash Us in the Blood". He is currently[ when?] working on a project that is a feature film that focuses on how black music has greatly influenced American culture.

As of 2021, the artists's work is represented by Gladstone Gallery.

In 2023, Jafa was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize for his 2022 exhibition "Live Evil" at LUMA Arles in Arles, France. His work was featured alongside fellow Prize nominees Bieke Depoorter, Samuel Fosso, and Frida Orupabo at the Photographers’ Gallery, London, which opened in March 2023. [19]

Personal life

While working on a film with Charles Burnett in 1980, Jafa met the director Julie Dash. Dash and Jafa married in 1983 and had a daughter, N'Zinga in 1984. [20] The couple later separated, after collaborating on the film Daughters of the Dust. [20] [21]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b Freeman, Nate (2018-03-27). "The Messenger: How a Video by Arthur Jafa Became a Worldwide Sensation—and Described America to Itself". ARTnews. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  2. ^ a b Lopez Sanchez, Jose (2017-11-15). "Arthur Jafa Interview Hirshhorn". Brightest Young Things. Archived from the original on 2020-08-07. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  3. ^ a b "Biography Arthur Jafa". Moderna Museet i Stockholm. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  4. ^ Freeman, Nate (2018-03-27). "The Messenger: How a Video by Arthur Jafa Became a Worldwide Sensation—and Described America to Itself". ARTnews. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  5. ^ "Dreams are Colder than Death: Screening & Talk with Arthur Jafa". Barnard Center for Research on Women. 2016-09-08. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  6. ^ Hornaday, Ann (2017-11-15). "Filmmaker Arthur Jafa makes his Hirshhorn debut with a stunning video installation". Washington Post. ISSN  0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  7. ^ "Arthur Jafa: Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death". The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  8. ^ "'Black People Figured Out How to Make Culture in Freefall': Arthur Jafa on the Creative Power of Melancholy | artnet News". artnet News. 2018-02-21. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  9. ^ "Arthur Jafa". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-08-11.
  10. ^ Scott, Andrea K. (2017-01-12). "Arthur Jafa's Crucial Ode to Black America". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-09-03.
  11. ^ "Arthur Jafa: Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death • MOCA". The Museum of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  12. ^ Smee, Sebastian (June 26, 2020). "One of the most powerful works of video art will be available free online this weekend. Here's why you must watch". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2020-06-26. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  13. ^ "Arthur Jafa and the Future of Black Cinema - Interview Magazine". Interview Magazine. 2017-01-11. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  14. ^ "Art Review Power 100". ArtReview.
  15. ^ "TNEG". TNEG. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  16. ^ Sargent, Antwaun (2018-12-28). "Black Cinema Pioneer Arthur Jafa's New Film Dissects the Problems of "Whiteness"". Artsy. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  17. ^ "Arthur Jafa / MATRIX 272 | BAMPFA". Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  18. ^ "Venice Biennale's Top Prize Goes to Lithuania". The New York Times. 2019-05-11. Retrieved 2019-05-11.
  19. ^ Dafoe, Taylor (2023-03-13). "Four Artists Have Been Shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. See How Their Works Unpack Themes of Identity and Power". artnet. Retrieved 2023-05-19.
  20. ^ a b Tomkins, Calvin (2020-12-14). "Arthur Jafa's Radical Alienation". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-09-03.
  21. ^ Tomkins, Calvin (2021-08-02). "The Epic Style of Kerry James Marshall". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-09-03.
  22. ^ "Arthur Jafa: Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death". Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  23. ^ Sargent, Antwaun (28 December 2018). "Black Cinema Pioneer Arthur Jafa's New Film Dissects the Problems of "Whiteness"". Artsy. Retrieved 2021-12-07.

External links