Internationally acclaimed Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh is showcasing her extraordinary ‘Water Life’ series at Fotofest in Houston, Texas, March 8 – April 19. The new display, which runs until March 8 – April 19, features 12 striking pieces commissioned by WaterAid with support from the H&M Foundation, and was shot in the extreme landscape of one of the hottest and driest places on earth, Dallol, Afar, in Northern Ethiopia.
The powerful Afrofuturist artwork responds to the urgent issue of a lack of access to clean water, which has a particularly devastating impact on the lives of women and girls.
Globally, one in ten people have no clean water close to home and one in four don’t have a decent toilet, causing diarrheal diseases that claim the lives of a child every two minutes. In Ethiopia, the figures are stark, with almost six in ten people being denied access to clean water, despite the significant progress the country has made over the past 20 years.
Aida herself, while living in Ethiopia, has encountered streams of women traveling on foot and carrying heavy burdens of water. Her images express these harsh daily realities, which affect not only women’s progress but also the futures of their communities.
The shackles of limitation from Water Life collection by Aida Muluneh commissioned by WaterAid and supported by H&M Foundation.
Taking inspiration from traditional ornamentation and body paint from across the African continent, the Ethiopian-born artist has explored not just issues of water scarcity and ecological emergency but also the vital role of art in advocacy and how Africa is represented in global media.
Aida Muluneh said:
“My main goal in building this collection is to address the issues caused by a lack of access to clean water, and the impact that has not only on a society as a whole, but on women, particularly in rural regions. We cannot refute that it is mainly women who bear responsibility for collecting water, a burden that has great consequences for our future and the development of our nation. My focus in this project was to address these topics without the cliché that we see in mainstream media. In a sense, to advocate through art.”
Diana Amini, Global Manager at the H&M Foundation said:
“The H&M Foundation are delighted to have supported the commissioning of this beautiful body of work. Aida Muluneh’s collection of photographs illustrate the stories of so many women and girls around the world who are urgently in need of access to clean water. Without this basic resource, women cannot meet their potential and are deprived of the opportunities to flourish that they deeply deserve.”
Neil Wissink, Photography Manager at WaterAid, said:
“We’re so excited to be collaborating with artist Aida Muluneh and Fotofest. Aida’s unique and compelling vision, expressed through this collection, not only brings women’s experiences center-stage but also helps catalyze real change. We’re proud, as an NGO, to have been able to work with an artist of Aida’s caliber, bringing our issues to light in a wholly new and exciting way.
“Around the world 785 million people live without clean water close to home, denying them the chance for education and good health. It’s our hope that this exhibition will highlight why water can’t just be a luxury for the privileged few, but must be normal for everyone everywhere.”
Images for download
Aida Muluneh was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1974 where she currently lives. Aida left the country at a young age and spent an itinerant childhood between Yemen and England. After several years in a boarding school in Cyprus, she finally settled in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1985. In 2000, she graduated with a degree from the Communication Department with a major in Film from Howard University in Washington D.C. After graduation, she worked as a photojournalist at the Washington Post.
Muluneh has been a jury member on several prominent photography competitions most notably the Sony World Photography Awards 2017 and the World Press Photo Contest 2017. In 2018 she exhibited “Being: New Photography 2018” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
She is the Founder and Director of the Addis Foto Fest (AFF), the first international photography festival in East Africa hosted since 2010 in the city of Addis Ababa. She continues to educate, curate and develop cultural projects with local and international institutions through her company DESTA (Developing and Educating Society Through Art) for Africa Creative Consulting PLC (DFA) in Addis Ababa.
H&M Foundation is a nonprofit global foundation, privately funded by the Stefan Persson family, founders and main owners of H&M group. Its mission is to drive long-lasting, positive change and improve living conditions by investing in people, communities and innovative ideas. Through partnerships with organizations around the globe, the H&M Foundation aims to accelerate the progress needed to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
WaterAid and H&M Foundation are working together to bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to communities around the world, globally and locally.
WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organization works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org/us.