Striking exhibition from Afrofuturist photographer Aida Muluneh on impact of unclean water on women

Internationally acclaimed Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh launched her extraordinary ‘Water Life’ photography exhibition in Vancouver recently, which takes as its inspiration the impact of water or the lack of it on women’s lives, development and futures.

The twelve striking images could be viewed at the largest global event on gender equality, Women Deliver, from 3-6 June and are part of an innovative exhibition design by Canadian architect Mark Aseltine.

As part of an open commission supported by the H&M Foundation, charity WaterAid invited Aida Muluneh to create the works in response to one of its core concerns – lack of access to clean water. The artist, who settled in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1985 and was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, explores in this work ideas of representation, gender and social justice through an Afrofuturist tableaux of twelve images. Each piece addresses the impact of water scarcity as it relates to issues like women’s liberation, health, sanitation and education. 

While travelling across the country for her work, Aida would often encounter streams of women travelling on foot and carrying heavy burdens of water. Inspired by what she saw and experienced, Aida created some of the work in the extreme landscape of Dallol, Afar, Ethiopia.

Aida Muluneh said:

“My main goal in building this collection is to address the issues caused by a lack of access to water, and the impact which 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 pleased to have supported the production of this beautiful body of work alongside WaterAid and Aida Muluneh. We hope the exhibition will raise much-needed awareness of the urgent need for improved access to clean water for women globally. By adding our voices to the collective call for action we hope to see progress and ultimately, lives transformed.” 

Nicole Hurtubise, CEO of WaterAid Canada, said:

“One in three people around the world still don’t have access to clean water close to home which, in the twenty first century, is simply unacceptable.

“Access to clean water is fundamental for women’s and girls’ health and wellbeing, education and participation in decision-making. 

“This is why WaterAid is delighted to be partnering with Aida Muluneh on this project to reach a new audience and to continue to push for change so that women and girls everywhere gain access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.”

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