Ali Assaf was born in 1950 in Al Basrah, Iraq's cosmopolitan second city.
In 1968 he moved to Baghdad to study art at the institute of Fine Arts, and in 1973 obtained a diploma in the Plastic Arts. As a student he became involved in the intellectual clash between existentialists and Marxists, anarchists and nationalists, the political clash between democrats and totalitarians, and cultural clash between modernists and traditionalists.
At the end of 1973 he moved to Rome, (where is still lives), to continue his studies of art at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he graduated in 1977 with a diploma in painting. When he refused to play along with the apparatus of the right-wing regime, which seized power in 1979, his passport was withdrawn and his citizenship removed, and ha has never been able to return to his country of origin.
In 1989 he obtained Italian citizenship after years of living in Italy as a refugee under the protection of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
From 1970 to the present day he has had a number of one-man shows in Iraq, Italy, Belgium and Holland. He has accepted invitations from critics of Italian art to participate in collective exhibitions and cultural events in private galleries, museums and alternative venues in various Italian cities. The titles and themes of these exhibitions include: Apartheid, Eroticism, Exile, Identity, Aids, Mental sicknesses, Arts and Technology, Homosexuality, Rapprochement between religious and understanding between peoples.
In his work, he has always dealt with war, identity, memory, nomadism, terrorism, immigration and demographic growth. Rather than making a didactical description of these phenomena, he has always approached them from a poetical point of view.
His works confronts the social phenomena through photography, installation, words, performances, painting and sounds. He recently used his body as a reference and signifier to convey his stand on these issues.