Sislej Xhafa was born in 1970 in Peja, Kosovo. After a period in Italy in the 1990s – when he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence – he moved to the United States. He currently lives and works in New York. His performances, videos and installations tackle social and political themes with irreverence and irony. His practice is conceptual in nature, and reflects on travel, belonging and human rights. These universal themes are filtered through the artist’s own personal vision, balancing his close connection with Albanian culture with a strong inclination to discover the other. At the 58th Venice Biennale in 1997, Xhafa literally embodied a Clandestine Pavilion: wearing the clothes of a footballer and a rucksack, and holding a ball and the Albanian flag, Xhafa wandered through the garden, making his presence felt in a provocative way among the official pavilions.
In 2005 he represented Albania in the 51st Venice Biennale and in 2013 was one of the artists chosen by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi to represent Italy in the exhibition ‘Vice Versa’. Recent exhibitions dedicated to his work include those held at the National Fine Arts Museum of Havana (2018), and National Gallery of Kosvo (2018), MAXXI, Rome (2015), MAM Foundation, Tirana (2014) and Madre, Naples (2012). His work was shown at Palazzo Grassi in the exhibition ‘The World Belongs to You’ (2011-12).