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Kosovo to Brooklyn | 5 Minutes With Sislej Xhafa

The Kosovar Albanian contemporary artist, Sislej Xhafa is known for his artistic work investigating social and political questions of society. Mr. Xhafa, now based in New York City is known for his artistic investigation into political, social, and economic realities associated with modern society. With only 5 minutes to spare, we chatted about his art and what he has coming up.

 

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Art Zealous: Where are you from?

Sislej Xhafa: The simplest answer to that question would be Kosovo. Although I am now an American citizen living in New York…

 

AZ: Is there a complicated answer?

SX: Well, Kosovo is a partially recognized state. Many countries still refuse to recognize it, and it is a fairly recent state. Some would consider me Serbian or Albanian.

 

AZ: Are those blurred political lines concerning your country something which influences your art?

SX: Yes, of course. I seek to understand society. It is one of the main reasons I started creating art. I like beautiful things. People, objects… I seek beauty in life. I even seek it in the darkness; Which is why I create a lot of my artwork at night.

 

AZ: When did you start creating art?

SX: When I was a young man; at about 14 years old I was drawing. Most of my art at an early age was inspired by the political pressure from Serbia in my country. My art started going public at around 1997.

 

AZ: That is in the midst of the Kosovo War?

SX: That is true.

 

AZ: Do you seek to make social or political critique through your art?

SX: No. It is very important for you to know this; I only seek to understand society and its problems. Not to judge it or criticize it, but only to question it.

 

AZ: So what is your next move?

SX: I have been working very hard lately. I just came back from a show in Kentucky, and I have an upcoming exhibition in Rome starting June 2nd. I am preparing all the pieces and thinking about the titles for the pieces… which I also take very seriously.

 

AZ: How are you preparing for the exhibition in Rome?

SX: Every night I go to bed at 8pm and I wake up at 2am to work. I prefer to work in the quiet of the night. I also usually make dozens of phone calls to Europe before 8 in the morning. The rest of the day I also spend it making calls and running errands. When I am so overwhelmed with work, I don’t drink, and I become a vegetarian to keep my focus.

 

AZ: Do you have any down time?

SX: I will later in the summer, but right now it’s mostly just work. I enjoy what I am doing, even though sometimes it’s overwhelming. When I do get a free moment I try to spend it with my family here in New York.

 

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Photos // © Dylan Don