Arthur 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. 

Soon after he graduated, Jafa began to experiment with film making. He directed the film Considerations (1983), and Slowly This (1995). It was Jafa’s work as a cinematographer which 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 Malcom 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) Corner (2000), along with co-directing Deshotten 1.0 (2009) and Adrian Younge (2015) with Malik Sayeed. Jafa’s 2013 film Dreams are Colder Than Death won him the ‘Best Documentary Award’ at the Black Star Film Festival in 2015.

Jafa has been exhibiting his work in the late nineties. Jafa was the Artist-in-Residence at ARTSPACE in San Antonio in 2002.

Selected solo exhibitions: 2017: 'Love is The Message, The Message is Death', The Vinyl Factory, London, UK; MoCA Detroit Offsite, 1086 Bellevue Street, Detroit, MI; LUMA Foundation, Arles, France; 'A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions', Serpentine Gallery, London, UK; 'Love is The Message, The Message is Death', Museum of Contemporary Art, MoCA, Los Angeles 2016: Museum of Contemporary Art, MoCA, Detroit; 'Love is The Message, The Message is Death', Gavin Brown's enterprise, 429 West 127th Street, New York. 

Jafa lives in New York City.