Acclaimed Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh is showcasing her extraordinary Water Life series at London's Somerset House next month, inspired by the impact of dirty water on women’s lives and futures.
The free show, which runs from 24 September until 20 October, features 12 striking pieces commissioned by WaterAid with support from the H&M Foundation, 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 has no clean water close to home. In Ethiopia, the figures are stark, with almost four in ten 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 subsequent 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 says: "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."
Water Life is a free exhibition 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 events 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.