WaterAid’s Afrofuturist exhibition is putting women centre-staged

In collaboration with WaterAid, Ethiopian artist, Aida Muluneh showcases her ‘Water Life’ photography project at Somerset House.

Shot in the extreme landscapes of one of the hottest and driest places on earth, Dallol, Afar in Northern Ethiopia, Aida Muluneh’s powerful Afrofuturist series explores ideas of representation and gender. The project acts as a response to the urgent issue of the lack of clean water, which in particular, has a devastating impact on the lives of women and girls.

Globally, one in ten people have no clean water close to home. In Ethiopia, the figures are stark, with almost four in ten people being denied access to clean water, despite the significant progress the country has made over the past 20 years. A child dies every hour from the resulting diseases.

Muluneh’s images express these harsh realities that many face daily: while living in Ethiopia, the artist encountered streams of women travelling on foot, carrying heavy loads of water. Throughout ‘Water Series’, Muluneh highlights how these conditions are not only affecting the women’s individual progress but also the futures of their communities.

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 as well as how Africa is represented in global media.

“My main goal in building this collection is to address the issues caused by a lack of access to clean water,”Muluneh told HUNGER “and the impact that has not only on 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.”

The new display at Somerset House runs until 20 October, featuring 12 striking pieces by Muluneh commissioned by WaterAid with support from the H&M Foundation.

2 October 2019