Aïda Muluneh’s vivid photographs are forces for change

Aïda Muluneh has long been turning the global perception of Africa on its head. The Ethiopian photographer’s instantly identifiable visual language is a striking blend of surrealism and sharp, vivid references to Ethiopian culture and the lives of women. Through graphic, shadowless planes and deft deployment of Photoshop, her primary colour-saturated works weave a complex web of domesticity and politics, fact and fantasy, subtle symbolism and arresting frankness. 

Muluneh’s first show at Dubai’s Efie Gallery highlights her ability to harness art as a tool for change. Titled ‘The Art of Advocacy’, the show spotlights works from acclaimed series such as Water Life 2018, (commissioned by WaterAid and shot in the salt flats of Dallol, one of the driest, hottest and most inhospitable places on earth), which addresses the impact of water deprivation on women’s liberation, health, sanitation and education, and The Road of Glory (2020), commissioned for the Nobel Peace Prize Exhibition that explores how food and hunger are used as weapons in war. ‘I purposefully selected works that respond to themes of human rights, environment, conflict and health as these continue to be prevalent global issues,’ Muluneh tells Wallpaper*.

Aïda Muluneh, Walls of Silence, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Efie Gallery Dubai

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Efie Gallery Dubai)

Each project, the artist explains, ‘relates to encounters that I have experienced in my personal life and also in my professional career as a photojournalist. Having spent many years working close to several communities, the artistic interpretations of unspoken realities have manifested within the images presented,’ she says. ‘The work aims to raise questions, to provoke curiosity and to imagine a different visual aesthetic as it relates to presenting the challenges that Africa faces – something that often falls victim to the foreign gaze as it relates to visual representation in the international media.’

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