Arthur Jafa (b. 1960)

Deshotten 1.0 (2009)
Dreams are Colder than Death (2014)
Love is the Message, The Message is Death (2016)
Ms Hillsonga (2017)
akingdoncomethas (2018)

Arthur Jafa is a cinematographer, director and visual artist. Jafa was born in 1960 in Toldeo, Mississippi and raised in Clarksdale, MS. He graduated in 1983 from Howard University in Washington, D.C, where he trained as an architect.

After graduation, Jafa experimented with film making, directing the film Considerations (1983) and Slowly This (1995). It was Jafa’s work as a cinematographer that gained him global recognition. His role as director of photography for the 1991 film, Daughters of the Dust, directed by Julie Dash, earned him ‘Best Cinematography’ at the Sundance Film Festival. He went on to work as a cinematographer for many influential films including Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1993), Crooklyn (1994) and I Am Ali (2002), collaborating with directors such as Spike Jonze, Andrew Dosunmu and Haile Gerima.

He later began to direct more of his own films including Sharifa Walks (2015), APEX (2013), Black Millennium (2000) and Corner (2000), along with co-directing Deshotten 1.0 (2009) and Adrian Younge (2015) with Malik Sayeed. Jafa co-founded TNEG with 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.'

Jafa’s 2013 film Dreams are Colder Than Death won him the ‘Best Documentary Award’ at the Black Star Film Festival in 2015. Arguably, Jafa’s breakthrough on the art scene came with Love is the Message, the Message is Death (2016), which premiered a few days after the US presidential election. The work is a seven-minute video set to Kanye West’s gospel-inspired song Ultralight Beam.

Additionally, Jafa has worked on a number of music videos and was notably the director of photography on videos for Solange's Don't Touch My Hair and Cranes in the Sky, as well as Jay-Z's song 4:44 with TNEG. 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. This was awarded The Golden Lion for best artist at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

He has had solo exhibitions at the likes of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles (2017), the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston (2018) and the Serpentine Galleries in London (2017).