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Beckwith Lecture: Arthur Jafa and Christina Sharpe

Artist, filmmaker, award-winning cinematographer, and TNEG (motion picture studio) co-founder Arthur Jafa will be in conversation with Christina Sharpe, Professor at Tufts University in English and Africana and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Renowned for a long-ranging career from cinematography on Julie Dash’s pioneering film Daughters of the Dust (1991) to conceiving, shooting and editing the music video with TNEG for JAY-Z’s 4:44, the title track from his newest album, Jafa hopes to create cinema that “replicates the power, beauty, and alienation of Black Music.” Sharpe recently contributed an essay accompanying Arthur Jafa’s recent solo exhibition Love is the Message, The Message is Death at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and is upcoming at the ICA Boston.

Established in 1978 by Leo and Betty Beckwith, the Beckwith Lecture features curators and cultural thinkers of national and international stature.


A limited amount of free tickets will be available for this event for SMFA and Tufts community members. Please return to this page in early January for more details.


Arthur Jafa was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and currently resides in Los Angeles. Renowned for his cinematography on Julie Dash’s pioneering film Daughters of the Dust (1991), Jafa, also the film’s co-producer, put into practice techniques he had long been theorizing. “Black Visual Intonation” is but one of his radical notions about re-conceptualizing film. He is the director of Slowly This (1995), Tree (1999), Deshotten 1.0 (2009), APEX (2013) and Love is the Message, The Message is Death (2016). Jafa was the director of photography on Spike Lee's Crooklyn (1994), Isaac Julien's Darker Shade of Black (1994), A Litany for Survival (1995), Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson's biographical film on the late Audre Lorde, John Akomfrah's Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1993), a cinematographer for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Manthia Diawara's Rouch in Reverse (2000), Nefertite Nguvu’s In the Morning (2014), shot second unit on Ava DuVernay’s Selma (2014) and was the director of photography for Solange’s music videos Don’t Touch My Hair and Cranes in the Sky (both 2016). In 2017, along with TNEG, Jafa conceived, shot and edited the music video for JAY-Z’s 4:44, the title track from his newest album. Dreams are Colder Than Death, a documentary directed and shot by Jafa to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, garnered acclaim at the LA Film Festival, NY Film Festival and Black Star Film Festival where it won Best Documentary. His writing on black cultural politics has appeared in various publications such as Black Popular Culture and Everything but the Burden, among others.

Jafa’s notable solo, group, gallery and museum exhibitions include Artists Space, New York, NY (1999); Okwui Enwezor’s traveling exhibition Mirror’s Edge, BildMuseet—University of Umea in Sweden / Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada / Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy / Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland (1999); 2000 Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Black Box, CCAC Institute, Oakland, CA (2000); Media City Seoul, Korea (2000); Bitstreams, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2001); Social Formal, Westaelischer Kunstvein, Münster, Germany (2002); My Black Death, ARTPACE, San Antonio, TX (2002); The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA (2016); The Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2016); Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York, NY (2016); The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2016). Jafa was recently featured in a solo exhibition entitled “A Series of Utterly Improbably, Yet Extraordinary Renditions” at The Serpentine Gallery in London in 2017 that will tour to the Julia Stoschek Foundation in Berlin in 2018. His work is represented in celebrated private and public collections worldwide, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The High Museum, The Dallas Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The Museum of Fine Art in Boston, The Stedelijk Museum, The Perez Art Museum in Miami, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.

Christina Sharpe is a Professor at Tufts University in the department of English and the programs in Africana and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her second book, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, was published by Duke University Press in November 2016 and was named in the Guardian newspaper and The Walrus as one of the best books of 2016. In the Wake was a finalist in the category of nonfiction for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards. Her first book Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects was published in 2010, also by Duke University Press. She is currently completing the critical introduction to the Collected Poems of Dionne Brand (1982-2010) to be published by Duke University Press. And she is working on a monograph: Black. Still. Life. She has recently contributed essays to the book accompanying Arthur Jafa’s first solo exhibition Love is the Message, The Message is Death and contributed an essay called The Crook of Her Arm to a collection on the work of the artist Martine Syms.


Alaina Clare Feldman
Eva Respini
Ben Davis
Jorge Fernandez Torres
Veronica Roberts
Jen Mergel
Kim Berman
Jacquelynn Baas
Linda Dalrymple Henderson
Lynn Cook
W.J.T. Mitchell
Okwui Enwezor
Hal Foster
Alfredo Jaar
Nancy Spero
Dave Hickey
Carolee Schneeman
Dan Graham
Lynda Benglis
Stan Brakhage
Bill Viola
Karen Finley
Mary Frank
Lorna Simpson
Barbara Kruger
John Cage
Julie Taylor
John Baldessari
John Wilson
Allan Kaprow
Elizabeth Murray
Robert Irwin
Yvonne Rainer
Robert Wilson