Born in Ethiopia, Aida Muluneh graduated from Howard University in 2000, and worked as a photographer at The Washington Post. In December 2007, she returned to Addis Ababa where she is currently based.
By Victoria L. Valentine |
When “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists” opened last year at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., for the first time in the Smithsonian museum’s nearly 50-year history, the exhibition was spread throughout the building. The show was presented in the galleries as well as the main pavilion and stairwells.
Featuring more than 40 contemporary artists from 19 African countries responding to Dante’s epic 14th century poem, the exhibition included internationally recognized artists, Kader Attia, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu, and Yinka Shonibare MBE, among them. But it was the work of Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh that visually branded and was most closely identified with the exhibition. Striking images of body painting from her The 99 Series (2013) were used to promote and advertise the group show (right).
The exposure served as a homecoming of sorts. Born in Ethiopia, Aida Muluneh graduated from Howard University in 2000, and worked as a photographer at The Washington Post. In December 2007, she returned to Addis Ababa where she is currently based.
The decision to reconnect with a land that she says was foreign to her has been a creative boon.
In 2010, Aida Muluneh founded the biannual Addis Photo Fest, the first international photography festival in Ethiopia. She also established Fana Wogi a annual open call supporting contemporary artists. Her nonprofit, DESTA (Developing and Educating Society Through Art), curates exhibitions and pursues cultural projects with local and international institutions.
On a blog she started to introduce DESTA, she explains what sparked her interest in photography. “I remember when I was a teenager I was so ashamed to tell people that I was Ethiopian that I wished I was South African! Regardless, the stigma of the ‘starving Ethiopian’ made it impossible for me to have any kind of pride in being Ethiopian. But, it was at the end of high school that I realized how images could create or distort realities and so, at the age of sixteen I begun exploring photography.”
“It was at the end of high school that I realized how images could create or distort realities and so, at the age of sixteen I begun exploring photography.” — Aida Muluneh
“The World is 9,” an exhibition of new works was recently on view at David Krut Projects in New York. In the exhibition catalog, Aida Muluneh says returning home after 28 years has been a lesson in humility. Since being back, she says, “an expression of my grandmother has stuck in my mind—she would say, ‘The world is 9, it is never complete and it’s never perfect.’” Hence the title of the exhibition.
Continue reading this story (and to see more photographs/paints by Aida Muluneh) on Culture Type
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- Julie Mehretu on Helping to Make the Powerful (and Angelina Jolie Pitt–Produced!) Ethiopian Film Difret