Internationally acclaimed Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh is showcasing her extraordinary ‘Water Life’ series at Somerset House, London, from 24 September, inspired by the impact of dirty water on women’s lives and futures.
The new display, which runs until 20 October, 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. 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.
Aida herself, whilst living in Ethiopia, has encountered streams of women travelling 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.
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 Somerset House on ‘Water Life’. Aida’s unique and compelling vision, expressed through this collection, not only brings women’s experiences centre-stage but also helps catalyse real change. We’re proud, as an NGO, to have been able to work with an artist of Aida’s calibre, 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.”
‘Water Life’ is a free display at Somerset House in the Great Arch Hall, South Wing from 24 September to 20 October 2019. It forms part of Somerset House’s ongoing strand of environmental themed programming and runs across 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading art fair dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora from 3 to 6 October.
To find out more: www.wateraid.org/uk/waterlife