Sead Kazanxhiu is a visual artist who was born in Fier, Albania, in 1987, and now lives and works in Tirana. After graduating from the city’s University of Arts with a degree in painting (2006–2010) he works primarily in that medium, but his more recent practice has expanded into sculpture, installation, video and public space interventions.
Kazanxhiu’s family comes from the Roma ethnic minority, something that shaped his childhood years in Baltez, a village near Fier. In a community that has a non-privileged position within a nation-state, being an Albanian Roma person has been a determining factor in Kazanxhiu’s status as an artist and in his cultural practice so far. Inspired by his own background, identity and everyday life, the issues of prejudice, exclusion, discrimination and racism have taken centre stage in both his artistic and activist work. While offering a good example of civic awareness through social campaigns, training programmes and workshops involving young Roma, Kazanxhiu advocates equal power relationships not only in Albania but also in what is nowadays an increasingly segregated global world. This includes his active role as arts and culture advisor in IRCA – the Institute of Romani Culture in Albania.
Kazanxhiu spent a year on a scholarship in the Roma English Language Programme at the Central European University, Budapest (2011–2012). While there he became more familiar with contemporary Hungarian culture and with local concerns related to his own areas of research, and also took part in initiatives favouring art as a tool for social change in Europe. He curated an exhibition devoted to the ninetieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Albania and Hungary, which was held at the Embassy of Albania in Hungary and the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Budapest (2012). His work Roma Monument (2013), produced during Kazanxhiu’s OSF Roma Initiatives Fellowship, is on permanent display in the yard of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth in Tirana.
His participation in the show (Re)conceptualizing Roma Resistance (Goethe Institute, Prague, 2016) is an example of Kazanxhiu’s research into Roma history, exploring and showing the animalisation, deportation and extermination of people under totalitarian regimes in twentieth-century Europe. With eight solo exhibitions since 2012 (in Tirana, Budapest and Brussels) and many group exhibitions (Tirana, Prague, Brno, Gotenburg, Drezden, Cracow, Bucharest and New Orleans), Kazanxhiu is an committed figure in the contemporary Albanian cultural scene. His stance against the unfair treatment of Roma people highlights the racial biases which continue to shape contemporary world-views. His work aims to restore the dignity of a community pushed to the outskirts of European democracy.
Model – Central European University, Budapest
Roma Monument – Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, Tirana
8 For 8 Of April – Albanian National Parliament, Tirana
My Place (Vendiim) – National Historical Museum, Tirana
Model – European Parliament Main Hall, Brussels
Gipsy Under Erasure – Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Extended, Göteborg
Perpetuum Mobile – Tulla Culture Center, Tirana
(Re)Conceptualizing Roma Resistance – International Roma Festival Khamoro, Goethe Institute, Prague
Source: the artist, Marko Stamenkovic