Born in 1974, Aida Muluneh is an Ethiopian photographer who spent much of her childhood between Yemen, Cyprus and England, before moving to Canada and the United States for her studies.
Freshly graduated in cinema from Howard University in Washington in 2000, she was a photojournalist, notably for the Washington Post. In 2004, her work entered the permanent collection of the prestigious Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of African Art. In 2007, she won the European Union Prize at the "Rencontres de la Photographie" de Bamako.
A committed woman...
Her ambition is to take an African look at Africa. She then returned to Ethiopia, after 28 years of absence, and founded the Addis Foto Fest, a premiere in East Africa. The idea is to bring together African-American photographers and Africans, and to encourage Ethiopian photographers to appropriate the story of their country.
She also founded DESTA (Developping and Educating Society Through Art) which means happiness in Amharic, her mother tongue, to pursue what her mother and Canada gave her most: education and tools for life. She wants the photography and art sector in general to be a priority area of development.
Permissions for everything ...
But in Ethiopia, Aida Muluneh comes up against a lack of photographic culture, largely reduced to wedding photos. Especially in an autocratic and bureaucratic country, photographers are often treated with hostility.
“The photo is viewed with suspicion”, she explains.
When she sends her students to Mercato, Africa's largest open-air market, young photographers are bullied by traders or harassed by police.
"You need permissions for everything. And the one given by the Ministry of Communication is not recognized by the police. That does not make sense".
One of her most popular works, the series of portraits “Painted Faces”, features young African women, faces painted in bright blue, white or red. The models become artistic subjects, rather than being reduced to their "Africanness".
“A big part of my job is to erase time and space. I am looking at universality. I want to think of the continent in a different way”, she explains.
The bright colors come from her cultural heritage and they aim to illustrate the intensity of her emotions.
Aida Muluneh produced a series of 12 photos for the NGO Water Aid, alerting to the lack of access to drinking water in the world.
In this dreamlike setting, she brings modernity to each photo. She immediately left her unique style mark to tell a story in twelve canvases: about the difficulties of access to water in certain regions of the planet, and how this crucial question is a daily responsability on women shoulders, at least as regards the Africa.
These photos were taken in the city of Dallo in Ethiopia, known to be the hottest city in the world.
Article originally published on Art Kelen's Medium profile.