ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Bangkok Post)- Surrounded by untidy stacks of paper and abandoned half-empty coffee cups, photographer Aida Muluneh chain smokes cigarettes in her Addis Ababa office and rails against the negative portrayals of Africa by foreigners

The 42-year-old came returned to Ethiopia nine years ago after living in Yemen and Canada and set herself the task of changing perceptions of the continent, replacing the outsiders’ dominant eye with an African one.

The Addis Foto Fest, which she founded and which opens its fourth edition Thursday, is one way of doing this, she said.

Aida Muluneh left Ethiopia aged five, but developed a powerful nostalgia for home while living abroad.

Her first photography job was with the Washington Post in the United States by which time she was “obsessed” with Africa and irritated by the images of her home country that she saw published in the media, ones that still harked back to the famine of the 1980s.

But Ethiopia had changed, even if portrayals of it had not.

She returned to a country moving at breakneck speed, an Ethiopia “stuck between the past, the present and the future”, where a drought-induced food crisis in the countryside co-exists with a shiny new, highline tram for city commuters, where luxurious skyscrapers loom above shanties.

‘False representations’

“Ethiopia gives you the full spectrum of humanity. The absolute misery and the absolute joy, and you can see a juxtaposition of all these elements in just a day,” Muluneh said.

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While there are foreign reporters and photographers who take a broader look at Africa, Muluneh takes aim at “false representations” of the continent by those who focus too heavily on its troubles.

“Africa is being treated unfairly,” she said, before arguing that a similar racism can be seen in news images of black people elsewhere in the world.

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