Aïda Muluneh’s latest project, an exhibition of a series of 12 works commissioned by WaterAid with support from the H&M Foundation. Photo: WaterAid
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Aïda Muluneh’s ‘Water Life’ highlights water scarcity and its burden on women

Ethiopian photographer Aïda Muluneh went to Dallol, Afar, Ethiopia, an extreme landscape where it is dry and hot to capture the essence of water to life. Through her work Muluneh highlights how water scarcity is mainly a burden on women.

Aïda Muluneh’s latest project, an exhibition of a series of 12 works commissioned by WaterAid with support from the H&M Foundation, is an advocacy project about the lack of access to clean water.

Muluneh’s images deliberately make use of bright colours that contrast against the background. The models are either wearing deep blue or red full gowns with white gloves and head ties, holding orange kegs. The images have been described as Afrofuturist. Problems surrounding access to clean water continue to affect both rural and urban communities, from Flint in America, to many countries on the continent.

An estimated 783 million people do not have access to clean water. In Africa, 319 million people do not have access to improved reliable drinking water sources. In rural areas, more money is spent on getting water. Muluneh’s work looked at the impact lack of access to water has on “women particularly in rural regions”.

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This image titled ‘Birden of the Day,’ shows Muluneh’s deliberate use of bright contrasting colours like red, blue and white to create a vivid image of the subject. Photo: WaterAid

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Muluneh said, “Access to water in rural regions in Africa is an urgent social issue, as well as an essential determining factor in the self-sustainability of a community. I have chosen to create a few of these pieces in Dallol, Afar, Ethiopia – an extreme landscape that places emphasis on the message I am transmitting. The world is continually bombarded with images of the social plight of Africa; therefore 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”.

The work, which will be exhibited at Somerset House in the UK, seeks to also challenge the representation of Africa by “aid organisations and in global media”. The impact of water scarcity as it relates to issues like “women liberation, health sanitation and education,” is addressed by each piece of Muluneh’s image.

“We cannot refute that it is mainly women who bear responsibility for collecting water,” Muluneh said. Muluneh’s calibre as a photographer spans through various awards and fellowships.

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